A look back at COVID-19's impact on European film festivals

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By Frédéric Ponsard
A look back at COVID-19's impact on European film festivals
Copyright  euronews

The Berlinale

The Berlin film festival started off strongly this year with a big female presence. Dame Helen Mirren was there along with Elle Faning accompanied by Javier Bardem. Paula Beer got the Silver Bear for best actress for her performance in ‘Undine’.

Iranian actress, Baran Rasoulof, was also present. She received the Golden Bear for her father, Mohammad, who was not allowed to leave Iran. He directed the film 'There is No Evil' which delves into individual freedoms and the death penalty via the experiences of several characters from contemporary Iran.

Rasoulof's daughter said she received the prize for her father with mixed feelings:

Baran RasoulofEuronews

"sadness, happiness, excitement but all in all I am very happy, happy for my father and happy we got the chance to get such an amazing, special award".

The Cannes Film festival

This year the unthinkable happened in the film world. Cannes’ famous boulevard was left empty as its iconic film festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. There was no Cannes film market, no stars, no red carpet, just a half empty auditorium.

However, a list of the official selection was published in July and in October a few screenings were able to take place for locals.

Thierry Frémaux, the director of the Cannes Film Festival, expressed his resilience at the time to this year's events by saying "We didn’t want to not go to Cannes. That’s why we’re here to meet local spectators and light up the screen to make sure that this year’s officially selected films are projected in the festival’s convention centre".

The Venice Film Festival

Venice's renowned event was able to take place, but it happened between two lockdowns. There were few spectators and many sanitary restrictions. Hardly any stars came. But Chinese director, Chloe Zhao, won the Golden Lion for her film starring France McDormand. It depicts the life of a homeless nomad. It is expected to be released in 2021.

The San Sebastian Film Festival

A few weeks later, at the end of September, the San Sebastian lit up. The festival even retrieved a few of the films initially selected for Cannes. A young, previously unknown Georgian director, Dea Kulumbegashvili, grabbed the Golden Shell with her first ever film called ‘Beginning’. The experience was novel for her:

Film director - Dea KulumbegashviliEuronews

"In a First feature everything is new, but especially this year with COVID, it's the first physical experience of watching the film with an audience that happened here for me, so everything is so strange."

The film tells the story of Yana and the disllusionment of her life as the wife of a Jehovah's Witness religious leader.

It is expected to hit cinemas as soon as they re-open.