BANFF cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

"Cancelling the festival after 41 years of success was not a decision we took lightly, but it was the right thing to do for festival delegates, speakers, and staff," said chair Randy Lennox.

The 2020 edition of the Banff World Media Festival (BANFF) has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Festival organizers said in a statement on Monday: “[BANFF] regrets to announce that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and heeding public direction given by the World Health Organization, the Canadian government and the Alberta government, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 edition of the festival, scheduled for June 14-17, 2020.”

All currently registered delegates will have the option to transfer their 2020 registration to next year, or receive a full refund.

“Cancelling the festival after 41 years of success was not a decision that we took lightly, but it was the right thing to do for festival delegates, speakers, and staff,” said Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media and chair of the BANFF board of directors. “I commend the BANFF team and our board for making this tough but necessary call, and I’m confident that the festival will come back better than ever in 2021. Please stay safe everyone.”

The 41st annual edition of BANFF had been set to feature Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, who was scheduled to participate in a fireside chat as part of the festival’s Summit Series. Other scheduled speakers included Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault and EbonyLife Media CEO Mo Abudu.

“Although we had kept hope up in recent weeks, it became clear that it would be impossible to hold the festival with no certainty regarding what the safety situation might be by June in addition to restrictions on large gatherings and travel bans in place at most media companies,” said Jenn Kuzmyk, executive director, Banff World Media Festival.  “We are not able to gather in person this year, but our team is already working on new ways to connect, inform, inspire and serve our industry. We look forward to working with all of you in the coming months to do just that,” she added.

While the main festival will not take place this year, a number of its programs will continue as planned.

The 2020 Rockie Awards International Program Competition will go ahead, with BANFF’s international jury of industry professionals continuing to judge entries. BANFF will present the 2020 Rockies to winners this year. More details will be announced in due course.

The third edition of the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Initiative will also go ahead, with BANFF announcing this year’s participants in the coming weeks.

In addition, the BANFF Spark Accelerator for Women in the Business of Media, supported by the the Government of Canada, will be reaching out to the inaugural cohort of 50 participants with details on its plans, read a statement from the festival. Plans are underway to announce the second cohort participants soon.

The festival is also still accepting applications for the IPF Producer Bursaries until Thursday, April 9. Meanwhile, the Corus Writer’s Apprentice Program recently closed with a record number of applications and BANFF will be announcing the 2020 participants soon.