US actress Isabel May arrives for the 77th Venice Film Festival.
US actress Isabel May arrives for the 77th Venice Film Festival.
PIC: AFP

The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up the first COVID-era international cinema showcase Saturday, with critics, filmmakers and actors alike cheering organisers for having dared to hold the festival amid a pandemic and demonstrating how to go to the movies again, safely.

The coveted Golden Lion awards were being handed out Saturday night before a masked audience conspicuously lacking in Hollywood star power, given coronavirus travel restrictions kept all but a few American productions away from Venice.

That the 10-day festival happened at all was hardly a given, after northern Italy in late February became ground zero of the coronavivrus outbreak in Europe.

Once the virus spread, the Cannes Film Festival was cancelled outright, and other big international festivals in Toronto and New York opted to go mostly online.

But after Italy managed to tame infections with a strict 10-week lockdown, Venice decided to go ahead, albeit under safety protocols that would have been unthinkable for a festival that has long prided itself on its spectacular visuals and glamorous clientele.

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