Australian film-maker braves double COVID quarantine for Venice festival

The 77th Venice Film Festival - Photo call for "The Furnace" out of competition - Venice, Italy, September 4, 2020 - Director Roderick MacKay and actor Ahmed Malek pose. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Australian director Roderick MacKay braved COVID-19 restrictions to make a “daunting” trip to the Venice film festival, where his debut feature “The Furnace” premieres on Friday.

MacKay had to get permission from Australian authorities to leave his own country, quarantine in Rome for two weeks before travelling to Venice, and will have to quarantine again when he goes back to Australia.

“Travelling during this time in history is sort of just a little bit daunting for any purpose,” 33-year old MacKay, who filmed a video of his journey and self-isolation on his mobile for Reuters, said in an interview.

“But to be doing so, to come to a top tier festival like Venice, to have your debut film premiere on the world stage, it’s certainly a whole other layer of dauntingness,” he said, adding he was happy and honoured to be at the world’s oldest film festival.

“The Furnace”, which is in the Horizon section outside the main competition, tells the little known story of cameleers brought to Australia by the British empire from India, Afghanistan and Persia in the second half of the 19th century and the local Aboriginal people they befriended.

The Venice film festival is the first such international event to go ahead in front of live audiences since the coronavirus pandemic shut much of the movie world down. It runs until Sept 12.

Reporting by Hanna Rantala, Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky