COVID-19 can’t kill the movies.
That was the message from Venice Film Festival jury president Bong Joon Ho at a press conference on Wednesday morning in Italy to kick off the 78th annual festivities on the Lido.
The Oscar-winning director of “Parasite” acknowledged that the pandemic had hurt filmmakers by shuttering movie theaters around the world.
“But in a way looking back on it, it feels like this was a test and it showed the life force of cinema,” Bong said.
He added: “As a filmmaker, I don’t believe that the history of cinema and cinema could be stopped so easily. So COVID will pass and cinema will continue.”
Bong appeared at the press gathering at the Palazzo Del Casino alongside fellow jurors, including Cynthia Erivo and Chloe Zhao. The director of “Nomadland” attended Venice virtually last year, as the first stop on the long trek to winning best picture and director at the Oscars.
“I was devastated I couldn’t be here last year,” said Zhao, who won the Golden Lion. “I’m just honored. Thank you for having me back.”
Indeed, Venice seemed to be mostly back this year — with COVID-19 protocols in place. Screenings will be at half capacity, all guests are required show proof of vaccination for indoor events and masks are required.
Bong admitted that he didn’t have a set methodology for judging this year’s film. “I don’t feel like there has to be some sort of criteria,” Bong said. “To pick beautiful cinema, it’s all about respecting everybody’s taste. That can all be different.”
Bong said that he looked forward to some spirited debate between the jurors. “We are ready to fight until maybe the very last day.”
Much of the dialogue on the first day of Venice’s focused on the future of movies — and what roles streaming services will play in producing, financing and streaming films.
Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera acknowledged that the decision of the Cannes Film Festival not to screen Netflix movies in competition has been a gift to Venice.
This year’s Venice will debut high-profile premieres from two auteurs — Jane Campion (“Power of the Dog”) and Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”) — who might have screened their latest projects earlier in the summer at Cannes, if their movies hadn’t been produced by Netflix.
“We can’t ask Netflix to produce a film commercially and wait 20 months to show it on the platform,” Barbera said, referencing a French regulation that requires all movies at Cannes to have exclusive theatrical distribution.
Venice, on the other hand, abides by no such rules.
“Therefore, it was a quite natural process, which led Paolo Sorrentino and Jane Campion to come to Venice,” Barbera said. “And, of course, that’s a great satisfaction to us.”
As for this year’s opening movie, Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” Barbera revealed that he’s spent years courting the Spanish director to bring a new movie to Venice. But because COVID-19 protocols had delayed production on the indie film, Barbera flew to Madrid in the middle of July to watch a rough cut, the last feature to be screened at this year’s selection process.
“I consider Pedro Almodovar one of the best directors of contemporary cinema,” Barbera said.