~ pandemic response ~

New Covid restrictions force ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival online

The world’s most prestigious poetry film festival has been forced to scrap plans for a live festival. The Berlin-based ZEBRA festival had persisted in planning a full live programme for November 19-22, assuming no doubt that Germany’s robust pandemic response would continue to permit such a gathering. But alas, German cinemas have been ordered to shut down starting today. So four days ago, the ZEBRA twitter account announced that they were going online, and promised more information soon. At the time of posting, no further information has been forthcoming.
Tweet reading "The cinemas in Germany will be closed for the time being from Monday. ZEBRA is going online.  Zebra  More information will follow soon!"

Moving a large, complex festival to the web is of course not a trivial undertaking. I must say, I’ve been enormously impressed with how the folks at Weimar have handled it, after having to abandon plans for a live festival on their very first year. The online Poetry Film Festival of Thuringia has an outstanding user interface with great visual design elements, and from a technical standpoint they’re using tools available to anyone with even a fairly minimal budget. The screenings use password-protected, embedded Vimeo showcases, and the live talks and discussions are handled with Zoom + YouTube Live. Payment is collected through Eventbrite. It’s all run through a basic, self-hosted WordPress installation using the free Underscores theme generator.

I’m sure ZEBRA has an outstanding technical and design team and doesn’t need any advice, but I think Thuringia is a model for festivals planning anything before at least the middle of next summer. And I’m rather hoping that even after the pandemic is over, traditional, meat-space festivals will continue to have an equally strong cyberspace component. It’s a bit of extra hassle, sure, but it does render any festival truly international, allowing many more people to attend (and more tickets to be sold). And with climate change destroying the planet, we all need to stop jetting around the world unless we absolutely have to.