Despite many other festivals going the digital route this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic, both the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival have stated that they will not host their events virtually.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux insists that should the option to host the festival physically drop, they will look for other alternatives to showcase the films, but that they will categorically steer clear of the digital alternative.

‘(For) Cannes, its soul, its history, its efficiency, it’s a model that wouldn’t work. What is a digital festival? A digital competition? We should start by asking rights holders if they agree,’ Fremaux tells Variety.

Hinting towards a few titles to be highlighted in this year’s edition, Fremaux added, ‘Films by Wes Anderson or Paul Verhoeven on a computer? Discovering “Top Gun 2” or (Pixar’s) “Soul” elsewhere than in (a) theater? These films have been postponed to be shown on a big screen; why would we want to show them before, on a digital device?’


‘Directors of “films” are driven by the idea of showing their movies on a big screen and sharing them with others at events like festivals, not for their works to end up on an iPhone.

‘If all the festivals are canceled, we will have to think of a way to showcase films, to avoid wasting a year, but I don’t think a precarious and improvised alternative of Cannes or Venice — no sooner done than forgotten — would be the solution’, Fremaux further elaborated.

Venice Film Festival’s Alberto Barbera seems to be on the same page as Fremaux on this matter. He disclosed in an interview with Italian news agency ANSA over the weekend that he is currently not taking into consideration any digital options. In the interview, he was weighing in on the Toronto Film Festival’s co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey’s statement that they were ‘looking at both on-site and digital innovations’ for their event.


‘Toronto is a different type of festival, not comparable to Cannes or Venice,’ said Barbera, who also added that although it’s unclear at this point how things will develop, they are not considering dropping the physical aspect of their event.

A spokesperson for Venice told Variety on Monday, ‘The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event.’ He went on to add, ‘there is obviously the possibility that we use technology for some initiatives,’ but that at present ‘it’s too early for this to be decided.’

The decision to digitalize their events doesn’t come without its own share of challenges for the festivals that chose to go down this path. This new approach has given birth to concerns regarding piracy, distribution and rights, among other issues. Given the uncertainty of the current global crisis, how the organizers will choose to deal with these obstacles remains to be seen.

For now, the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival are going ahead with their plans to host their events in September, and the Cannes Film Festival is still considering to go forward with this year’s edition at a later date, possibly in June or July, having postponed their initial May event.