Canada’s drive-in movie fest features films from 8 nations worst-hit by Covid-19

As the Covid-19 pandemic has shuttered cinemas, a unique international film festival has taken place in the city of Toronto, bringing moviegoers out for the communal film experience, by opting for a retro medium for doing so – the drive-in theatre.

The 12-day Lavazza Drive In Film Festival, which concluded on Friday night, was held with a view to getting the city’s film buffs out of their homes, sitting in their cars, watching films alongside others, and given how the coronavirus crisis has impacted everything including the world of entertainment, the theme for the event was Together Beyond The Pandemic, Sharing Films From The Most Affected Countries. Eight countries were featured in the festival – Canada, India, USA, UK, France, Brazil, Russia, China and Italy.

The Drive In Film Festival came into existence out of a sense of “disappointment”, said its Director of Programming Carlo Coen. It is backed by the organisers of the annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival, held each June. This year, of course, that was impossible. “We could not leave such a gap,” Coen said, and thought of the option of the drive in. “It is a safe situation to be in your own car,” Coen said.

The venue selected was Ontario Place, in Toronto as it could accommodate up to 185 vehicles at a time. While the organisers have put together the Italian festival each year, Coen said they agreed that “This had to be international because of the very nature of the need we had, to gather Torontonians together. We Wanted to emphasize this recovery from a health emergency, by representing the countries hit worst.”

The response, Coen said, was “wonderful, amazing”, with most of the screenings selling out in advance, evidencing the appetite filmgoers had to watch movies on a large screen rather than on their devices, or TVs, as they had done for nearly four months. Coen said, “People really want to go out, want to go beyond this idea of watching films at home. Cinema is meant to enjoyed by many people together rather than at home.”

The Indian film selected was the 2019 comedy Bala, directed by Amar Kaushik and starring Ayushmann Khurrana.

Obviously, the festival came with its own operating restrictions given the time in which it was being held: Physical distancing had to be observed at all times, with a minimum of two metres between individuals when outside their vehicles, vehicles had to be parked two metres apart, people were told not to leave their vehicles unless absolutely necessary, and only individuals from the same household could occupy the same vehicle. Refreshments could be offered using the festival app and delivered to the car.

As ICFF starts preparing for its regular Italian festival, which has been postponed to November, the Drive In version could witness a repeat performance by becoming an annual event in itself, as Coen said, “We would love to do that, if the circumstances allow.”

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