Why film festivals need to adapt to climate change – The Hollywood Reporter

Usually, when attending a major international film festival, one’s thoughts on the weather are limited to the question of what clothes to bring. For Cannes you leave the double-breasted wool at home, for Venice maybe pack something flowy or Bermuda shorts.

This year it’s different.

A strong summer heatwave scorched Europe, with record temperatures recorded in London, Paris and Rome. A severe drought has contributed to violent forest fires in France, Portugal and Spain. In Asia, torrential rains caused flash flooding in Seoul, Korea, where more than a dozen people drowned in their Parasitebasement style apartments. On August 13 in Valencia, Spain, one person was killed and 17 others injured when a strong gust of wind caused a stage at the Medusa Music Festival to collapse. Climate science points to a future where such extremes become more common and intense as the planet warms.

So for a film industry rushing to return to in-person festivals after the coronavirus pandemic forced hiatus, time is no longer a matter of fashion. It has become an existential crisis.

When temperatures in parts of France topped 104 degrees Fahrenheit in June, local governments banned public outdoor events, including concerts and large public gatherings, a move that would shut down any major festival in the region. Elsewhere, extreme heat has threatened the infrastructure on which any festival relies. Trains across Britain were delayed or canceled when record temperatures threatened to seal off the tracks. London narrowly avoided a power outage after power surges – driven by peak air conditioning use during the summer heatwave – nearly shut down the city’s grid (London only averted collapse only ‘by quickly buying electricity, at a 5,000% mark-up, from Belgium).

“We all watch the news, we know what’s going on, but most movie actors still act like [the climate crisis] does not exist,” says Julien Tricard, founder of the French mediaClub’Green, which deals with the impact of climate change on the film industry. “But as the events of this summer have shown, Europe is burning. The industry will have to rethink the way it does everything because that’s the new normal now.

So far, extreme weather conditions have not disrupted the festival season. Cannes was held successfully – and comfortably – at the end of May, just before the heat wave in Europe. Venice, which kicks off Aug. 31, and Toronto’s TIFF, which kicks off Sept. 8, appear to have avoided the harshest summer weather. Likewise, the weather for subsequent autumn festivals – San Sebastián, Zurich, Busan and London – will hopefully be cooler and calmer than what happened from June to August.

But the trajectory and seemingly accelerating pace of climate change has raised fears that the next extreme weather event is just around the corner. Probably sooner than expected.

Octavio Passos/Getty Images

“We were lucky this year to have missed the heat wave; the maximum temperature was about [86 degrees Fahrenheit]says Evelyn Voigt-Müller, head of communications at the Munich Film Festival, which ran until July 1. “But extreme weather conditions are becoming a more serious problem. This is something we need to keep in mind if we want to protect our visitors for the future.

Toronto residents remember 2018, when heavy rains in August, less than a month before TIFF, caused flash flooding, with rivers of runoff rushing into Union Station and Rogers Arena on Front Street , a few blocks south of TIFF’s Bell Lightbox headquarters on King Street. If a deluge like this hit the Canadian city on TIFF’s opening weekend, it would sweep away the festival’s red carpets and could even drive Toronto’s dedicated moviegoers away from theaters.

According to Jane da Mosto, co-founder and executive director of environmental group We Are Here Venice, an extremely hot summer led to water shortages across Italy, “affecting the basic survival system” of cities like Venice. . “We see this heat wave as further confirmation that we are living in a climate emergency and that it is time to really react,” she adds.

The ancient Italian city is ill-equipped to deal with extreme weather conditions, da Mosto says, pointing to its declining and outdated infrastructure and lack of green spaces.

“I saw lines of people waiting for hours in the extreme heat to board a vaporetto [water bus] without any shadow provided [by the public transport service],” she says. “And visitors and residents are under the same sky. If it’s too hot for the residents, it will also be less comfortable for the visitors.

Festivals in Venice and many other European cities face an additional problem: many of their cinemas, and some local hotels or homes used as Airbnbs by festival visitors, were not designed for extreme heat, often missing air conditioning or other conveniences.

“We work closely with the national weather office and try to plan and adjust as best we can,” says Voigt-Müller from the Munich festival. “But in the end, we are really at the mercy of the weather. This year we have moved our festival headquarters to a new location with a large outdoor tent. There’s no way to cool this. If he hits [100 degrees F]that’s it.”

THR contacted nearly a dozen major film festivals for this article, and none had concrete plans to deal with the risk of extreme weather.

“We currently have few plans in place to address the issue,” the Busan International Film Festival (October 6-15) noted in an email, saying it “takes time” to implement “new programs”. With COVID-19 still raging in Korea, Busan said preventing the spread of the virus is a priority for this year’s festival. “However, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the impact of climate change and recent extreme weather events around the world,” the festival said. “At this stage, we are thinking about how to do [the fact of] the climate emergency part of our long-term planning for the festival.

A forest fire in Athens, Greece.

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

So far, festivals’ attention to climate change has been very long-term, with a focus on reducing energy and waste consumption and limiting the footprint. carbon from an event. Every major festival has a “green plan” outlining how it wishes to reduce or, by purchasing CO₂ offsets or other measures, offset the emissions resulting from travel, accommodation and general consumption which are an inevitable part of any great movie. Party.

“We do everything we can to respect the environment, from the recycled paper on which we print the programs to the supply of bicycles to get around to offsetting emissions,” says Raphaël Brunschwig, general manager of the Film Festival. of Locarno, which was a climate-neutral festival. event since 2010 and last year began publishing an annual sustainability report, documenting progress towards its green goals.

“We have to focus on what we can control, regardless of global conditions,” says Brunschwig, “and I think what film festivals can do, what we can do, is raise awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis, and to promote and draw attention to films that do just that.

But there are steps festivals could take now to help mitigate the worst effects of intense heat and other weather extremes. After the sweltering summer, unions in traditionally cooler northern European countries have called on employers to restructure the working day, taking inspiration from southern approaches, where warmer temperatures are more the norm. Suggestions include longer lunch breaks or traditional Spanish afternoon siestas to avoid working during the hottest part of the day. Transferred to the world of festivals, that could mean scheduling more screenings late at night or early in the morning when it’s cooler, or relaxing black-tie requirements for galas to avoid heatstroke on the red carpet. (hot).

“We have to think outside the box, completely rethink our way of doing things, how we plan these events,” explains Mathieu Delahousse, co-founder of Eco Tournage, a consulting firm that offers green solutions to production companies and filmmakers. audiovisual industry. . “And we need to act now because the risk and the cost will only increase the longer we wait.”

Already, Delahousse notes, insurance companies are recalculating climate change risks, taking into account everything from destruction caused by extreme weather conditions to medical costs related to cases of heatstroke or dehydration during major public events. .

“Over the next five years, there will be a huge recalculation regarding insurance, and policies will increase,” he notes.

But despite the dire outlook and climate science indicating things get worse before they get better, Delahousse is optimistic the film industry will find a way.

“When we take it seriously, this industry can be incredibly adaptive, incredibly flexible,” he says. “Look at the coronavirus. In six months, we’ve found a new way to do things that were unthinkable a year earlier. As soon as we take the climate crisis as seriously as we took the coronavirus, we can change .

This story first appeared in the August 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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