Fantasia Film Festival Will Be Online-Only This Year; Locarno Film Festival Canceled

Film festival season is coming, but it's going to be very hard for most fests to stick their usual plans this year. With that in mind, the Fantasia Film Festival, which is traditionally held in Montreal, Quebec, has made the decision to go fully digital this year. Meanwhile, Switzerland's Locarno Film Festival is officially canceled this year, and will instead set up an initiative to support independent cinema.

Fantasia Goes Online

The Fantasia International Film Festival was hoping to launch on July 16 of this year, but the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have made that impossible. Instead, the fest will be fully online this year. They've teamed up with Festival Scope and Shift72 via their newly-launched online festival platform, offering studio-grade DRM that will be MPAA compliant, operating according to Motion Picture Association of America security standards.

Several Fantasia 2020 screenings will be presented "with real-time access, offering heightened security to the digital programming with attention to recreating the energy and sense of shared experience that make festivals so vital and beloved. This unique opportunity allows Fantasia the opportunity to program top-tier genre films that may not have otherwise considered online launches or premieres."

Regarding the move to digital, Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis said:

"While we're saddened not to be able to put on the larger-than-life physical event that we'd been planning for this year, we're extremely excited to be working with Festival Scope and Shift72 on an unconventional virtual edition. They've enthusiastically embraced every challenge we've thrown their way, particularly when it comes to making so many of our screenings be real-time, live events instead of the usual streaming approach. It's going to make things so much more exciting and will go a long way towards keeping the intensity and engagement of the in-person experience vibrant in an online realm."

The digital fest hopes to be a live event experience streamed directly into peoples' homes, complete with filmmaker intros and audience-involved Q&A's, live panels, and more. Also: the screenings will be geo-blocked to Canadian audiences and only accessible from within the country. The virtual fest will run August 20 through September 2, 2020. The first wave of Fantasia titles will be announced in May.

Locarno Canceled

One festival that won't be going online is Locarno. The Swiss summer festival would've marked its 73rd year in 2020, but has been canceled due to Swiss government restrictions. The festival is known for its outdoor screenings, which is part of the reason organizers decided to not go with an online option. Locarno artistic director Lili Hinstin told Variety:

"For us the priority was to save the physical aspect of the festival, which for us is very closely tied to its (setting) since Locarno audiences are in this amazing place between a lake and a mountain where you have the Piazza Grande with this gigantic screen."

In place of a festival, Locarno is offering an initiative that will award monetary prizes to "directors whose movies have been blocked by the pandemic and are therefore suffering economic damage." The prizes will be based on "artistic value" and feature "a Special Leopard for an international director; a Special Leopard for a Swiss film, and other prizes and forms of support." Details are still being ironed out.