Major Fall Film Festivals Commit to Cooperate, Not Compete, Amid Pandemic

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Toronto Film Festival

"The art form we love is in crisis," a joint statement from the Toronto, New York, Telluride and Venice festivals reads.

The Toronto, New York, Telluride and Venice film festivals, knocked sideways in their planning by the coronavirus pandemic, have unveiled a joint statement that commits the longtime rivals to cooperate and not compete for film titles and awards-season bragging rights in the fall.

"This year, we’ve moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals and commit instead to collaboration. We are sharing ideas and information. We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find. We’re here to serve the filmmakers, audiences, journalists and industry members who keep the film ecosystem thriving. We need to do that together," the statement of solidarity reads as it signals a pandemic-era truce.

The joint declaration, while short on details on how their cross-festival alliance will evolve, is signed by Toronto co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, Venice director Alberto Barbera, New York director Eugene Hernandez and Telluride executive director Julie Huntsinger and co-founder Tom Luddy. Each of the rival festivals for six weeks each fall compete to premiere Hollywood and indie film titles as they serve as launch pads for fall studio and streamer movies and Oscar contenders.

But this year, the coronavirus pandemic impacted organizers and programmers at New York, Telluride, Toronto and Venice just as they were preparing for their fall 2020 editions. "We knew we had to adapt. We decided to collaborate as we never have before," the statement adds.

The result has seen the four rival festivals plan slimmed-down 2020 editions with first-time digital platforms and fewer film titles to screen. And planned physical screenings and events in Toronto, Venice, New York and Telluride will depend on green lights from local public health authorities.

The full joint statement follows:

This year, we saw the COVID-19 pandemic devastate communities all over the world and bring life as we knew it to a halt. As supporters of global cinema, we watched as the work of film artists stopped in its tracks, and the culture of film itself was challenged. Films come alive with audiences, who could no longer gather in the ways we had for over a century.The art form we love is in crisis. Our own organizations have seen unprecedented challenges to our work and our financial security. The pandemic caught each of us as we were preparing for the biggest event of our year in the fall of 2020.

We knew we had to adapt. We decided to collaborate as we never have before. Venice is the origin story for every film festival in the world. Telluride is one of the world's most influential festivals. Toronto is home to the world’s largest public film festival. And the New York Film Festival curates for one of the world’s most storied, sophisticated film cities. Our four festivals share a love of cinema and a devotion to filmmakers.

We also share a short span of six weeks each autumn. This year, we’ve moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals and commit instead to collaboration. We are sharing ideas and information. We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find. We’re here to serve the filmmakers, audiences, journalists and industry members who keep the film ecosystem thriving. We need to do that together. We believe cinema has a unique power to illuminate both the world around us, and our innermost perceptions. In a crisis, films can transport us. They can enchant, inform, provoke and heal. As we work through challenging circumstances this summer to prepare our festivals, we will work together, in support of film.

Cameron Bailey, Toronto International Film Festival

Alberto Barbera, Venice Film Festival

Eugene Hernandez, New York Film Festival

Julie Huntsinger, Telluride Film Festival

Tom Luddy, Telluride Film Festival

Joana Vicente, Toronto International Film Festival