Venice Fest wraps up first COVID-19 era international cinema showcase amid cheers

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VENICE, Italy — The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up the first COVID-era international cinema showcase Saturday, with critics, filmmakers and actors alike cheering organizers for having dared to hold the festival amid a pandemic and demonstrating how to go to the movies again, safely.

The coveted Golden Lion awards were being handed out Saturday night before a masked audience conspicuously lacking in Hollywood star power, given coronavirus travel restrictions kept all but a few American productions away from Venice.

Eighteen films were vying for the top awards in the main competition, including a record eight directed by women. Cate Blanchett headed the main jury.

That the 10-day festival happened at all was hardly a given, after northern Italy in late February became ground zero of the coronavivrus outbreak in Europe. Once the virus spread, the Cannes Film Festival was canceled outright, and other big international festivals in Toronto and New York opted to go mostly online.

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