Can digital film festivals offer a bridge during COVID-19 closures? While there will be no in-person queueing, a slew of film festivals will continue this year online in an altered form.
In a show of digital solidarity, 20 festivals from around the world — including Cannes, Sundance and Venice — will join forces to present “We Are One: A Global Film Festival.” Organized by Tribeca Enterprises, the 10-day affair will begin May 29 and take place on YouTube, where audiences can view the slate of films for free, with voluntary donations benefiting the World Health Organization.
“We often talk about film’s uniquely powerful role in inspiring and uniting people across borders and differences to help heal the world,” Tribeca Enterprises co-founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal said. “All of the world needs healing right now … ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide.”
Though a list of confirmed programming has yet to be released, organizers will cull titles from the various festivals to present an international lineup of films, shorts documentaries and conversations.
“One of the most unique and inspiring aspects of the world staying home is our ability to come together and experience an event as one, and ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ is just that,” Robert Kyncl, chief business officer at YouTube, said. “Along with Tribeca Enterprises and our incredible partners, we are bringing fans the opportunity to experience the curated programming each of these festivals provides as part of our 10-day-long event. It’s an event that’s never been done before and we’re proud to be the home for this fantastic content that is free to fans around the world.”
With prominent festivals canceled, the film industry has been left with the task of remaining in the public’s purview while facing mounting losses. In March, Tribeca Film Festival began streaming short films from alumni. SXSW launched its digital run with Amazon Prime April 27, with 35 films available to watch for free (via an Amazon account, of course) through May 6. At this point, the Venice and Toronto film festivals are retaining their September start dates, though it’s unclear whether or not the date is viable.
The Cannes Film Festival, which will program a roster of films as part of “We Are One,” has remained particularly stalwart in its efforts to present the prestigious event in some live form, postponing the affair twice from its original May dates. Though France plans to lift lockdown orders beginning May 11, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe stated Tuesday that large gatherings of 5,000 people or more will remain banned at least until September — issuing a major blow to presenting the film festival in an iteration resembling its original any time soon.
While the digital versions of festivals cannot replicate the live experience of spending hours in darkened rooms with friends and strangers, they do offer a balm — albeit if only to tide audiences over until they can see the films presented in large formats.
Top Image: Nastassja Kinski in "Paris, Texas" by Wim Wenders, which won the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. © Tamasa Distribution.