The Locarno Film Festival has cancelled its 2020 edition, which was due to take place on August 5 to 15, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The festival said in a statement that due to the health emergency and current instructions from the federal authorities regarding major events, it was clear that the 2020 edition could not take place in its usual format.
”Unfortunately, the film selection and in principle the physical festival locations, starting with the iconic Piazza Grande, will have to be dispensed with in 2020,” the festival said in a statement
It said the physical festival will be replaced with a new format bannered ”Locarno 2020 - For the Future of Films”. Details are still being developed but it will involve targeted projects aimed at supporting the independent film industry, which has been hit hard by the health crisis, as well as initiatives making special content available to the public and industry professional on various platforms.
Depending on how the health situation evolves in Switzerland and in the canton of Ticino, where the Locarno Film Festival is based, there could be some sort of small physical events in situ in Locarno around its scheduled dates but a decision on this will be taken at a much later date and will not involve any sort of official Locarno selection.
Artistic director Lili Hinstin said the structure of the new programme was still being developed but she indicated that it would not revolve around online premieres.
”The festival must serve the films above all. In our view, organising online premieres in August is not the best way,” she said. ”Our role is to connect the films, the industry and the audience, so we looked for other ways to live up to this mission and want to start where our contribution could prove to be particularly useful at the moment.”
We are working on designing a coherent project. This should be in harmony with the history of the festival, in the sign of solidarity, and help our audience and the directors in their difficult situation.”
An important element of the ”Locarno 2020 - For the Future of Films” initiative will be two prizes, worth around $60,000 (CHF 60,000), aimed at one international and one Swiss feature film project that were halted either at the shooting or post-production stage as a consequence of the pandemic.
“We felt the creation of these two Special Leopards would made sense on a practical level and as an act of solidarity to filmmakers at this difficult time,” Hinsten told Screen.
A list of contenders will be drawn up on an invitation-only basis in the coming weeks and two separate juries will be appointed to award the prizes. Hinsten said no timeframe had been set as yet for the announcement of the projects or the juries.
The cancellation of Locarno’s physical edition follows a decision by Switzerland’s ruling Federal Council to extend a ban on events involving more than 1,000 people until the end of August.
Locarno Film Festival president Marco Solari said the festival had been gearing up for the eventuality of having to cancel the physical event. He said that the artistic and management teams had been working closely in recent weeks to draw up a range of contingency plans, many of which have had to ditched.
“At its latest session the festival’s board of governors, having taken into account the persistent health risks, even for gatherings of fewer than 1,000 people, and noting the impossibility of preserving the spirit of Locarno, decided unanimously to forgo in principle the physical event,” he said. ”The Festival wants to confirm its presence alongside both the public and the film industry, with a project that aims to give a fresh shape, on other stages and platforms, to the values that have hallmarked its history over so many decades.”