Locarno Festival Cancels 2020 Edition, Launches Online Alternative

'Parasite' Actor Song Kang-ho Receiving a Lifetime Achivement Award at the 72rd Locarno Film Festival in 2019
Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shut down the 73rd edition of the Swiss film festival, but Locarno is launching an online initiative to foster independent filmmaking.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shut down another film festival: The Locarno Film Festival, originally scheduled for Aug. 5-Aug. 15, has been canceled amid COVID-19 concerns.

Festival organizers on Wednesday announced that instead of a physical event, Locarno will this year go online with an initiative aimed at fostering independent auteur filmmaking of the kind celebrated at the austere Swiss fest. Called Locarno 2020 — For the Future of Films, the event will include online screenings of selected films, as well as industry-focused content, such as panels and workshops.

If it is possible to do safely, the festival said it would also hold screenings at physical locations in Locarno.

Locarno is set to celebrate its 73rd edition this year, making it one of the world's oldest film festivals. The fest is known for its focus on art house productions and for its spectacular open-air screenings held in the city's Piazza Grande, with more than 8,000 people watching. Such mass gatherings have been banned under Switzerland's coronavirus regulations.

"Since it cannot mount an edition centered on gathering and sharing in physical spaces, the festival reinvents itself," said Locarno festival president Marco Solari.

Organizers said the Locarno 2020 initiative is designed to take action "against the film industry’s enforced idleness" and support filmmakers who have had to stop work because of COVID-19.

Instead of new works, Locarno will ask 10 international directors and 10 Swiss filmmakers who have had to stop production because of the crisis, to submit material from their latest work —a from a script or individual scenes to rough cut of the film—which will be judged by a jury of film professionals. The jury will award prizes, including a special version of its Golden Leopard honor, to individual projects with prize money being used to help complete the films.

The directors will also be asked to select a film to screen from Locarno's 73-year-history.

Locarno will announce its full lineup of projects and initiatives in the coming weeks.

On Monday, YouTube and Tribeca Enterprises announced their own online festival, called We Are One, which will include content from several international fests, such as Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Toronto.