The 63rd San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) will not be going ahead this April, organizers announced Friday (March 13), over concerns around the spread of COVID-19.
The decision comes just a few weeks after SFFILM stated it was “confident and comfortable in moving ahead with the festival,” which was scheduled to run April 8 to 21 in the Bay Area.
“We are deeply saddened and disappointed to announced that we are canceling,” organizers stated in a press release. “SFFILM is committed to being a part of the solution to keep our community audiences and artists safe and is abiding by the current recommendations from state and city health officials.”
The festival is the latest in a string of cancellations and postponements — from live upfronts to events such as Tribeca Film Festival and the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival — confirmed in the last few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic escalates.
On Sunday (March 15), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that organizations cancel or postpone gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC stated. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.”
A day earlier, on March 14, President Donald Trump extended travel restrictions to the United Kingdom and Ireland, stating the federal government is “unable to effectively evaluate and monitor” travelers arriving from both countries.
“I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe, or the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States,” Trump stated in a proclamation.
The president previously restricted travel to the country from foreign nationals that have recently been in the Schengen Area, which comprises European countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, among others.
Elsewhere, in England, organizers behind Sheffield Doc/Fest met Friday (March 13) to “discuss the timing of the festival in light of the developing coronavirus situation.”
“It was agreed that all stakeholders need to be consulted before a decision is made, and that work is being undertaken as a matter of urgency. We will make a final announcement by 31 March,” organizers said in a statement.
Photo courtesy SFFILM