Viennale and COVID-19
The Viennale is acutely aware of its responsibility as a major event in times of a pandemic. The nature of our festival is rooted in the commonality, in the participation in a public event where film, filmmakers and audience come together. And we believe that this will also be possible this year. At the same time we want to concentrate on our core task and do not want to offer a festival centre as a meeting point for the public this year.
It goes without saying that the Viennale will comply with all applicable hygiene regulations and observe the rules of distance in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of the audience. Furthermore, the festival has decided on a number of measures to increase the safety of the audience and staff:
- -Only allocated seats will be sold for all festival locations and all performances. Only single and double seats will be offered.
- For the first time there will be the possibility of "print at home" tickets to minimise direct contacts.
- Seamless contact tracing will make any infections immediately traceable and prevent further spread. We therefore ask all visitors* to provide their e-mail address and mobile phone number when purchasing tickets.
- Regular COVID-19 testing of all Viennale staff
- Where possible, additional entrances and exits of the cinemas are used.
- IMPORTANT: As allocated seats do not allow easy entry after the performance has started (because you have to get to your specific seat in the dark), this year's tickets will lose their validity when the performance starts. This measure, taken with a heavy heart, serves the safety of all visitors. This means: no admission for late arrivals after the screening has started.
Thoughts on the program
The 58th edition of the Viennale is taking place in a very unusual year. In the course of its history, the Viennale has gained in importance due to its programmatic, aesthetic and political principles. It has become a reliable major event on an international level and a fixture in the calendar for audiences in the city of Vienna.
But as long as it isn’t possible to assess the economic, political and social impact of COVID-19, we too have no choice but to be flexible, to focus our attention on the current moment and to be open to possible changes. The pandemic forces us to think about the possibilities of a festival under special circumstances. So we have reconsidered the Viennale, based on our reflections on what is essential and important for cinema today.
Accordingly, the 2020 edition of the Viennale will be both essential and consistent: with innovations and changes, yet maintaining its character and structure.
Under the given circumstances, it’s also a good time to reflect on cinema and festivals as event forms.
The launch of the Viennale’s new, more dynamic website not only provides more content, but also offers more space for exchange. Exploring and reorganizing our archive goes hand in hand with remembering our history in the form of videos and photos. There will also be many opportunities to exchange ideas with filmmakers, critics and viewers about what is currently going on in cinema.
Furthermore, the Viennale unwaveringly adheres to its role as a promoter of cinema culture and thus also to the experience of watching films in the cinema. We celebrate the art of cinematography, its intellectual and sensual power, the complexity of its production method and its technical sophistication. For it is in the cinema venue itself that the art form of cinema comes to new life. And it is in the cinema auditorium where energy is concentrated, where impressions are conveyed, and experiences are shared.
The vocation of our festival is rooted in community, in participating in a public event where films, filmmakers and viewers come together.
And we believe that this will also be possible this year.
In order to guarantee the safety and well-being of the audience in the auditoriums, we will, of course, comply with the current hygiene regulations and ensure that the distancing rules are observed. However, to enable a larger community of cinema lovers to participate in the festival, we’re collaborating with colleagues who share our interests and who, currently more than ever, are committed to the same goals. As a result, we’ve created a new network for the Viennale 2020 and added five more cinemas to the official festival theaters. Admiralkino, Blickle Kino im Belvedere 21, Filmcasino, LE STUDIO Film und Bühne c/o Studio Molière and Votiv Kino have joined our initiative. This will make it possible to present additional re-screenings and expand the Viennale experience to other parts of the city.
Viennale 2020 - A Festival of Synergies, Collaborations and Coexistence
To give you an idea of part of this year’s program, we’ll start with one of the interpretative approaches that some of the selected films have in common, and which we find particularly interesting in the current phase: distance versus proximity. This pair of terms has now taken on a special connotation, yet it encompasses a much more complex meaning when related to our way of life and our social and political relationships. Proximity or distance to things, people, situations – whether by chance or by habit, in the context of events or for exchanging ideas – influence the way we perceive and understand them. In a world that is controlled in different ways and determined by consumption and communication; a world that sometimes allows and sometimes merely promises the analysis of information, the knowledge of details and the power of interpretation in a paradoxical figure of thought. In such a world, the – close or distant – point of view assumes a complex symbolic meaning.
Oleg Sentsov, who was finally released after having been unlawfully imprisoned, presents NOMERY (“Numbers”), a political allegory of totalitarianism. INTIMATE DISTANCES by Phillip Warnell questions a kind of distancing that is already part of our social customs. AN UNUSUAL SUMMER by Kamal Aljafari directs the view to the outside through surveillance cameras, creating a human and personal commentary. In FREM, Viera Čákanyová uses the camera in an impulsive way, like a quasi-mechanical eye.
As always, cinema explores its own history and the political situation; and, as always, it does so with different accents and approaches – narrative, descriptive or observational, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes from a noble distance.
From the numerous examples of this reflective approach in the program, the following films should be highlighted: DIE LETZTE STADT (“The Last City”) by Heinz Emigholz, COLOZIO by Artemio Narro, HER NAME WAS EUROPA by Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy, HER SOCIALIST SMILE by John Gianvito and CITY HALL by Frederick Wiseman.
It goes without saying that the Viennale will also present works by great filmmakers that have already had the great fortune of a public premiere this year. In order to whet your appetite, we’d like to announce a few titles, many of which also feature a top-class cast. These include FIRST COW by Kelly Reichardt, one of the most important films of the year, to which we devote special attention; EL GRAN FELLOVE by Matt Dillon, the first film by the actor with the distinctive face, who is not only a lover of music history but also a musician himself; and, last but not least, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, for which Eliza Hittman received the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Berlinale.
There’s also no shortage of Austrian productions at the 2020 Viennale, but we’ll only reveal some of the selected films here: Hubert Sauper’s EPICENTRO, which received a prize at the Sundance Film Festival; AUFZEICHNUNGEN AUS DER UNTERWELT (“Notes from the Underworld”) by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, an exceptional work about the secrets of Viennese life at the end of the Sixties, told by its legendary protagonists; and ZAHO ZAY by Georg Tiller and Maéva Ranaïvojaona, a film that embarks on its journey to the origins through the reality of Madagascar’s prisons, interweaving documentary testimonies with the suspense of fiction.
A showpiece is THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw – not only because it reflects this year’s Viennale theme. And not only because it was actually one of the big surprises this year and one of the most impressive films shown at Sundance. But primarily because it is an imaginative and entertaining, careful and humorous film that succeeds in describing an entire culture by depicting a single tradition while respecting its representatives.