The four major autumn film festivals - Venice, Toronto (TIFF), Telluride and New York - have pledged to collaborate rather than compete this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A joint open letter signed by the heads of the festivals - Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente (TIFF), Alberto Barbera (Venice), Eugene Hernandez (New York), and Julie Huntsinger and Tom Luddy (Telluride Film Festival) - reads: “This year, we’ve moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals and commit instead to collaboration.
“We are sharing ideas and information. We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find. We’re here to serve the filmmakers, audiences, journalists and industry members who keep the film ecosystem thriving. We need to do that together.”
There are few concrete details in the letter, but it is an acknowledgment the festivals hope to show many of the same films, rather than competing with each other for world premieres as usual.
Due to various travel bans and quarantine rules, few North Americans are expected to make the trip to Venice this year; few Europeans are expected to be able to attend the North American festivals and the US industry cannot yet travel to Canada for Toronto.
All four events are set to go ahead, with Venice (Sept 2-12) and TIFF (Sept 10-20) unveiling scaled-down festivals with digital components in the past few weeks. New York is set to run Sept 27-Oct 3, whilst Telluride has not announced it 2020 dates yet.
Separately, Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival (Sept 18-26), has unveiled its first films, five of which were Cannes 2020 label titles.
The full letter is below:
This year, we saw the COVID-19 pandemic devastate communities all over the world, and bring life as we knew it to a halt. As supporters of global cinema, we watched as the work of film artists stopped in its tracks, and the culture of film itself was challenged. Films come alive with audiences, who could no longer gather in the ways we had for over a century.
The art form we love is in crisis. Our own organizations have seen unprecedented challenges to our work and our financial security. The pandemic caught each of us as we were preparing for the biggest event of our year in the fall of 2020. We knew we had to adapt. We decided to collaborate as we never have before.
Venice is the origin story for every film festival in the world. Telluride is one of the world’s most influential festivals. Toronto is home to the world’s largest public film festival. And the New York Film Festival curates for one of the world’s most storied, sophisticated film cities. Our four festivals share a love of cinema and a devotion to filmmakers. We also share a short span of six weeks each autumn.
This year, we’ve moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals and commit instead to collaboration. We are sharing ideas and information. We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find. We’re here to serve the filmmakers, audiences, journalists and industry members who keep the film ecosystem thriving. We need to do that together.
We believe cinema has a unique power to illuminate both the world around us, and our innermost perceptions.
In a crisis, films can transport us. They can enchant, inform, provoke and heal. As we work through challenging circumstances this summer to prepare our festivals, we will work together, in support of film.