The 2020 Venice Film Festival: A New Normal

by The Cowl Editor on September 17, 2020

Film and Television

Female Directors Make History Despite COVID-19

by Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff

As the first international film festival during the era of COVID-19, the Venice Film Festival ran for 10 days and showcased 18 films. This year, a new record was established as eight films by female directors won top awards in the main competition. Filmmakers and actors alike traveled to Venice from all over the world, showing that going to the movies can be done successfully if COVID-19 guidelines are followed. Due to the impact that the pandemic has had on the United States, many highly anticipated films did not make it to the festival. 

As the disease spread rapidly throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, many major film festivals decided to outright cancel their events. The Venice Film Festival organizers eventually decided to go through


with the festival, since Italy managed to slow the rate of infection after a strict lockdown period. At a time when the world is filled with uncertainty, the Venice Film Festival managed to act as a symbol of international solidarity in the arts. The festival allowed both fans and creators to celebrate the expertise, creativity, and dedication of filmmaking during these harrowing times. 

The film that came out on top at the conclusion of the festival was Nomadland from the United States. Frances McDormand stars in the film, which takes place during the 2008 global financial collapse. The director of this film, Chloé Zhao, attended the festival virtually with Frances McDormand. They won the Golden Lion, the top award at the festival. The previous year, the Golden Lion was awarded to Todd Phillips who directed the film Joker. Zhao is the first female director since Sofia Coppola in 2010 to win the Golden Lion. 

The film resonated with many critics, with the storyline following McDormand as a struggling nomad after the global financial crisis in 2008. Many see the plot to be symbolically representative of the decline of the United States in recent times. 

While the world struggles to recover from the pandemic, the organizers of the Venice Film Festival showed that it is still possible to appreciate the arts through strict social distancing rules and guidelines. Even though the presence of Hollywood talent was much lower this year compared to previous years due to travel restrictions from the United States to Europe, the United States was represented well by directors and actors. The jury for the festival consisted of President Cate Blanchett, along with Joanna Hogg, Christian Petzold, and Ludivine Sagnier.

The Venice Film Festival can set a precedent for how other festivals may proceed with the correct social distancing requirements. The winner of the Golden Lion, Nomadland, will be released in United States theaters on Dec. 4.