What’s the future without festivals going to be like?

This year is like no other in many ways. Almost every part of our lives is a bit disrupted by the epidemic we’re all fighting and chances are that some of these changes will stay with us for a long period of time.

For instance, this will be the first time that there are no film festivals since they are a dangerous place to be at this point. They play a big role in the industry and it’s difficult to imagine what the world will look like without them.

The Cannes

At this point, a lot of different festivals have already been canceled and everyone involved knew that that’s what will happen to their festival as well. However, the things really hit hard when The Cannes has been canceled and partially moved online. There are other events in the film business but this one is a somewhat of a symbol.

There’s a glamour and elegance to it and not having the Cannes festival at all shows how serious the situation is.  It was supposed to take place between May 12 and end May 23, as it usually does.

Going digital

Many festivals have decided to go digital and that’s done about both their films and other events that take place at the festival. Those include: workshops, interviews and so on. However, the Cannes decided not to do that. It’s partly because the festival itself is an event and one that everyone in the industry is looking forward to. It can’t be replicated online.

At the same time, the YouTube event will be hosted in cooperation with a few other festivals and it will host a few of the films that should have been shown at the Cannes.

German festivals

Germany hosts a lot of smaller festivals and they are not as well-known as the Cannes but together they play quite a role in the industry. They have decided to take another rout and to move all of their festivals online.

The 27th International Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film took place May 5-10 and garnered a positive reaction. “We started the festival week cautiously due to a lack of experience, and also since we didn’t have any role models to look to,” explains artistic director Ulrich Wegenast. “However, we noticed on the first day that our expectations were far exceeded. Both the views of the opening film in the live stream and the tickets sold show us that our offer was well-received.”

Online isn’t free

For a while now we are all used to that things being online means being free. This isn’t the case for any products and it can’t be the case for the film festivals since they are too expensive to organize especially when it comes to the right to show the intellectual property.

They are also willing to pay for it: “Cinema must not be free on the Internet either,” says DOK.fest director Daniel Sponsel. Looking to the future, however, he says: “The place of a film festival remains the cinema. We are very much looking forward to the next festival editions, where we can laugh or be moved together again. But we could imagine showing selected films online between festivals, over the course of the year, in other words, offering a small curated program.”

Big festivals working together

There are rumors and more than that there will be some sort of cooperation amongst the biggest of the festivals to provide a portion of their content online. That way none of the festivals will lose on the prestige since they will all be innovating together. It’s also possible that the big tech names will want to get in on it.

And while the French festival’s organizers are loath to hold the actual festival online, they are still going digital in a sense. Cannes, Venice, the Berlinale, Sundance and Tribeca are among 20 international festivals offering viewers worldwide a free online film festival from May 29 to June 7. Under the name “We Are One: A Global Film Festival,” feature films, short and documentary films, music and virtual round tables will be presented on YouTube.


The covid19 pandemic and the response to it has canceled most of the film festivals around the world. That’s the best thing to do for the safety of anyone involved however, it will change the industry and everyone is still trying to find how to deal with the new reality.

Some of the big name festivals are reluctant to move the event online since they lose some of their prestige, but smaller ones are already doing it. As is the case with most things these days no one knows how long this new reality will last.

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