Thursday May 06, 2021

COVID-19 disrupts film festivals, production but boosts streaming

Published : 13 Mar 2021, 21:39

Updated : 14 Mar 2021, 11:48

  DF News Desk

The 71st Berlin International Film Festival, an unprecedented version of the leading event for film art, has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the world's festive industry, reported Xinhua.

A contemporary satire by Romanian director Radu Jude won the Golden Bear for Best Film on Friday. The jury said the movie -- "Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn" -- "has that rare and essential quality of a lasting art work."

What interested Paolo Bertolin, a member of the selection committee of the Venice Film Festival, about the winner was that the protagonist was seen moving around in town during the pandemic, giving an extra layer of anxiety and paranoia connected to the general phycological state of people, where "feelings have been exacerbated and have become much more intense," according to him.

While people do not see many stories revolving around the pandemic, many films inevitably use the pandemic as a backdrop, said the Italian expert.

Disrupted by the pandemic and related restrictive measures, this year's Berlinale has been split into two parts -- an online Industry Event in March and a Summer Special in Berlin in June, when films would be presented.

The pandemic has also affected quite many film festivals. After the film festivals taking place in Venice, San Sebastian, Zurich and Rome last autumn, most festivals in Europe were forced to go online, Bertolin noted.

The Rotterdam Film Festival, delayed at the beginning of February, took place online but with a difference that the films were available online to the public in the Netherlands instead of only to the press and registered professionals.

The pandemic also boosted new festival formulas: an interesting example was the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, which took place in November 2020 in a hybrid form, where the public were able to choose where to see the films -- on the big screen or online.

Bertolin said that the main problem of a virtual festival is that one cannot be in a cinema experiencing the screen and the very special feeling and vibe that one can only have when surrounded by other people watching together.

Now people have become more used to streaming films, and this was a habit, but during the pandemic it has become a necessity.

"Many films that were supposed to roll out theatrically during the time of the pandemic ended up screening online," he said.

"Sometimes the problem is also that institutions and financiers had to delay the assignment of the funds that were promised to certain films," Bertolin said.

"Then you have films that have been shot and affected in terms of post-production and this was especially relevant here in Europe," he added.

The Spring Festival holiday in China saw a reduced people movement as many Chinese opted to stay put, but also experienced the highest monthly box office revenue the country has ever seen.

China's 2021 box office revenue has exceeded 16 billion yuan (2.46 billion U.S. dollars) as of March 6, data compiled by box office tracker Maoyan showed, which equaled more than three-fourths of the total ticket sales for the whole year of 2020.

What happened in China in the past few weeks has given a huge boost to the global cinema industry, according to the expert.

"Cinema is still a great source of entertainment and this is quite revealing of what may happen in the rest of the world as well," Bertolin said.