Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020

The world has changed in 2020, and Il Cinema Ritrovato – Bologna’s annual celebration of archive cinema – has changed too. Having been postponed in June, the 34th edition took place at the end of August, which at least meant we didn’t face last year’s obstacle of temperatures hitting 40°C. The festival was shorter, running for just under a week, and a couple of the planned strands have been held back until next year.

But Il Cinema Ritrovato has expanded in other ways, hosting regular screenings in the opulent Teatro Comunale and Manzoni auditoriums, adding extra outdoor presentations in BarcArena and Arena Puccini, and taking up one of the screens in the charming Odeon cinema, which usually hosts new releases. The muffled sound of Tenet (2020) booming away in the adjacent screen thankfully didn’t spoil the experience of watching John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) or Fort Apache (1948) in this beautiful space.

Other changes were enforced by the questions that have become central to all our lives this year: social distancing and safety. The festival introduced a new ticketing system that cut down on queues and crowding; the capacity of each screen was reduced with alternate seats blocked out; access to the nightly outdoor screening in Piazza Maggiore was strictly controlled; and, of course, hand-washing and mask-wearing was mandatory across all venues. There was even an online version of the festival provided for anyone unable or unwilling to attend, streaming a selection of films and masterclasses for home viewing. Festival directors and cinema owners around the world who are struggling to figure out the best way to proceed in the age of COVID-19 could do a lot worse than look at this event for guidance.

Read the rest of my article at the BFI website now.