Venice Film Festival

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Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica
International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art
Venice Film Festival logo.svg
Festival di Venezia 2018.jpg
Venice Cinema Palace on the Lido island
LocationVenice, Italy
Founded6 August 1932; 86 years ago (1932-08-06)
AwardsGolden Lion and others
Artistic directorAlberto Barbera
No. of films87 in 2018

The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival (Italian: Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, "International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale") is the oldest film festival in the world and one of the "Big Three" film festivals, alongside the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival.[1][2] These three film festivals are internationally acclaimed, and give creators the artistic freedom to express themselves through film.[3]

Founded in Venice, Italy, in August 1932, the festival is part of the Venice Biennale, an exhibition of Italian art founded by the Venice City Council on 19 April 1893.[4] The Venice Biennale, founded in 1893, is situated within the cultural sphere, covering work ranging from art, architecture, dance, music and theatre to cinema (the world-known Venice Film Festival).[5] Today, the Biennale includes a range of separate events including: the International Art Exhibition; the International Festival of Contemporary Music; the International Theatre Festival; the International Architecture Exhibition; the International Festival of Contemporary Dance; the International Kids' Carnival; and the annual Venice Film Festival, which is arguably the best-known of all the events.

The festival in held annually in late August or early September on the island of the Lido in the Venice Lagoon. Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. Since its inception the Venice Film Festival has grown into one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, and it is still one of the most popular and fast-growing.[6]

The 76th Venice International Film Festival is scheduled to be held from 28 August to 7 September 2019.[7]



During the 1930s, the government and Italian citizens were heavily interested in film. The majority of all money spent on spectator art or sporting events went to film industry.[8] The majority of films screened in Italy were American which lead to government involvement in the film industry and the yearning to celebrate Italian culture in general.[9] With this in mind, the Venice International Film Festival was created by Giuseppe Volpi, Luciano de Feo, and Antonio Maraini in 1932.[10][11][9] Volpi, a statesman, wealthy businessman, and avid fascist, was appointed as the president of the Venice Biennale the same year. Formerly, he served as the Minister of Finance under Benito Mussolini .Maraini served as the festival's Secretary General and the executive committee was headed by de Feo.[11]

On the night of August 6, 1932, the American film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian opened the festival. Attendees viewed the film on the terrace of the Excelsior Palace Hotel. A total of nine countries participated in the festival which lasted from August 6 to August 21.[11]

No awards were given at the first exhibition, however, an audience referendum was held to declare which films and performances were worthy of the most praise. The French film Freedom for Us was labeled as the Film Più Divertente (the most fun film). The Sin of Madelon Claudet was chosen as the Film Più commovente (the most moving film) and it was decided that Helen Hayes gave the best actress performance for her role in the film. The title of most original film, Film dalla fantasia più originale, was given to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Fredric March was considered to have given the best actor performance.[11]

Despite the success of the first festival, no event was held in 1933. In 1934, the festival was declared to be an annual event and involvement grew from nine countries to seventeen. The structure of the festival also began to develop in 1934 when the first official awards were given, namely the Mussolini Cup. Seventeen awards were give; 14 to films, 3 to individuals, and 5 honorable mentions were announced.[11]

The third installment in 1935 was headed by the festival's first artistic director, Ottavio Croze, who maintained this position until the war. The following year added a jury to the festival's governing body, with members being solely Italian.[11] The majority of funds for the festival at this point came from the Ministry of Popular Culture, with other portions received from the Biennale and the city of Venice.[12]

The year 1936 also marked another important development in the festival. A law, crafted by the Ministry of Popular Culture, was passed declaring the festival to be an autonomous entity, separate from the main Venice Biennale. This allowed additional fascist organizations, such as the Department of Cinema and the Fascist National Federation of Entertainment Industries, to take control of the festival.[12]

The fifth festival established its home. Designed and completed in 1937, the Palazzo del Cinema was built on the Lido. The Palazzo has since been the site for every Venice Film Festival with a three-year exception from 1940 to 1942 when the festival was moved away from Venice for fear of bombing. Coincidentally, the city received almost no damage.[10]


The 1940s represent one of the most difficult moments for the festival itself. Nazi propaganda movie Heimkehr was presented in 1941 winning an award from the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture. With the advent of the conflict the situation degenerated to such a point that the editions of 1940, 1941 and 1942, subsequently are considered as if they did not happen because they were carried out in places far away from Lido.[13] Additionally, the festival was renamed the Italian-German Film Festival (Manifestazione Cinematografica Italo-Germanica) in 1940. The festival carried this title until 1942 when the festival was suspended due to war.[12]

The festival resumed full speed in 1946, after the war. For the first time, the 1946 edition was held in the month of September, in accordance to an agreement with the newly-born Cannes Film Festival, which had just held its first review in the spring of that year. With the return of normalcy, Venice once again became a great icon of the film world.[13]

In 1947 the festival was held in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace, a most magnificent backdrop for hosting a record 90 thousand participants. The 1947 festival is widely considered one of the most successful editions in the history of the festival.[13]

Development and closure[edit]

The Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and Pier Paolo Pasolini together in Venice at the premiere of the movie The Gospel According to St. Matthew in 1964.

In 1963 the winds of change blow strongly during Luigi Chiarini’s directorship of the festival (1963–1968). During the years of his directorship, Chiarini aspired to renew the spirit and the structures of the festival, pushing for a total reorganization of the entire system. For six years the festival followed a consistent path, according to the rigid criteria put in place for the selection of works in competition, and took a firm stand against the political pressures and interference of more and more demanding movie studios, preferring the artistic quality of films to the growing commercialization of the film industry.

The social and political unrest of 1968 had strong repercussions on the Venice Bienniale. From 1969 to 1979 no prizes were awarded and the festival returned to the non-competitiveness of the first edition. In 1973, 1977 and 1978, the festival was not even held. The Golden Lion didn't make its return until 1980.[13]

The rebirth[edit]

Years Director
1979–1983 Carlo Lizzani
1983–1987 Gian Luigi Rondi
1987–1992 Guglielmo Biraghi
1992–1996 Gillo Pontecorvo
1996–1999 Felice Laudadio
1999–2002 Alberto Barbera
2002–2004 Moritz de Hadeln
2004–2012 Marco Müller
since 2012 Alberto Barbera

The long-awaited rebirth came in 1979, thanks to the new director Carlo Lizzani (1979–1983), who decided to restore the image and value the festival had lost over the last decade. The 1979 edition laid the foundation for the restoration of international prestige. In an attempt to create a more modern image of the festival, the neo-director created a committee of experts to assist in selecting the works and to increase the diversity of submissions to the festival.

To celebrate the 70th edition of the festival, in 2013 the new section "Venezia 70 – Future Reloaded" was created.

During the recent years, under the direction of Alberto Barbera, the festival established itself as an Oscars launchpad,[14] increasing the presence of American movies and hosting the world premieres of Academy Award-winning films such as Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014), Spotlight (2015), La La Land (2016) and The Shape of Water (2017).

In 2017 a new section for virtual-reality (VR) films was introduced.

In 2018 Roma by Alfonso Cuarón won the Golden Lion and became the first ever movie produced by Netflix to be awarded in a major film festival.[15]


The President of the Venice Biennale represents the festival in front of its financial partner, the public authorities and the media. He is chosen by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The current President is Paolo Baratta, appointed in 2008, who has previously held the position between 1998 and 2002.

The Director is responsible for the coordination of the events and is chosen by the President of the Venice Biennale and its delegates. The current Director is Alberto Barbera, appointed in 2012, who has previously held the position between 1999 and 2002. His current term will end in 2020.


The Film Festival's current awards are:

Official selection: In competition[edit]

Oshri Cohen winning the Golden Lion for the film Lebanon at the 2009 edition.
  • Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro), awarded to the best film screened in competition at the festival
See list of winners at Golden Lion
  • Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento), awarded to the best director in the competitive section
See list of winners at Silver Lion
  • Grand Jury Prize
See list of winners at Grand Jury Prize (Venice Film Festival)
  • Volpi Cup (Coppa Volpi), awarded to the best actor/actress
  • Special Jury Prize, awarded to one or two films
See list of winners at Special Jury Prize (Venice Film Festival)
  • Golden Osella, awarded to the Best Technical Contribution (to cinematographers, composers, etc.) and for the Best Screenplay.
See list of winners at Golden Osella
  • There are other awards that also recognize acting performances:
    • Marcello Mastroianni Award, instituted in 1998 in honor of the great Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni who died in 1996. The award was created to acknowledge an emerging actor or actress[16]
    • Special Lion, awarded for an overall work to a director or actor of a film presented in the main competition section.

Orizzonti section (Horizons)[edit]

This section is open to all "custom-format" works, with a wider view towards new trends in the expressive languages that converge in film.

Starting from the 67th edition of the festival, four awards of the Orizzonti section have been established:[17]

  • The Orizzonti Award for Feature Films
  • The Special Orizzonti Jury Prize (for feature films)
  • The Orizzonti Award for Short Film
  • The Orizzonti Award for Medium-length Film

Jaeger-LeCoultre partnership[edit]

Cinema Palace during the 65th Venice International Film Festival.
Cinema Palace during the 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award, organized in collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre since 2006. It is dedicated to personalities who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema.[18]

This is the list of winners:

Year Director Nationality
2006 Kitano Takeshi Japan
2007 Abbas Kiarostami Iran
2008 Agnès Varda France
2009 Sylvester Stallone United States
2010 Mani Ratnam India
2011 Al Pacino United States
2012 Spike Lee United States
2013 Ettore Scola Italy
2014 John Ford United States
2015 Brian De Palma United States
2016 Amir Naderi Iran
2017 Stephen Frears United Kingdom
2018 Zhang Yimou China

Past awards[edit]

Mussolini Cup (Coppa Mussolini)[edit]

The Mussolini Cup was the top award from 1934 to 1942 for Best Italian and Best Foreign Film. Named after Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini, it was abandoned upon his ouster in 1943.[19][20]

Mussolini Cup for Best Italian film[edit]

Year English title Original title Director(s)
1934 Loyalty of Love Teresa Confalonieri Guido Brignone
1935 Casta Diva Casta diva Carmine Gallone
1936 The White Squadron Lo squadrone bianco Augusto Genina
1937 Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal Scipione l'africano Carmine Gallone
1938 Luciano Serra, Pilot Luciano Serra pilota Goffredo Alessandrini
1939 Cardinal Messias Abuna Messias Goffredo Alessandrini
1940 The Siege of the Alcazar L'assedio dell'Alcazar Augusto Genina
1941 The Iron Crown La corona di ferro Alessandro Blasetti
1942 Bengasi Bengasi Augusto Genina

Great Gold Medals of the National Fascist Association for Entertainment[edit]

"Le Grandi Medaglie d’Oro dell’Associazione Nazionale Fascista dello Spettacolo" in Italian.

This was awarded to Best Actor and Best Actress. It was later replaced by the Volpi Cup for actors and actresses.[19]

The first time this prize was awarded to Katharine Hepburn for her role in Little Women by George Cukor.[19]

Audience Referendum[edit]

In the first edition of the festival in 1932, due to the lack of a jury and the awarding of official prizes, a list of acknowledgements was decided by popular vote, a tally determined by the number of people flocking to the films, and announced by the Organizing Committee. From this, the Best Director was declared – Russian Nikolai Ekk for the film Road to Life, while the film by René Clair À Nous la Liberté was voted Best Film.

Award for Best Director[edit]

Year Director(s) Title Original title
1935 King Vidor The Wedding Night
1936 Jacques Feyder Carnival in Flanders La Kermesse Héroique
1937 Robert J. Flaherty and Zoltan Korda Elephant Boy
1938 Carl Froelich Magda Heimat

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson, Ariston. "Venice: David Gordon Green's 'Manglehorn,' Abel Ferrara's 'Pasolini' in Competition Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Addio, Lido: Last Postcards from the Venice Film Festival". TIME. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  3. ^ Chan, F. (1 June 2011). "The international film festival and the making of a national cinema". Screen. 52 (2): 253–260. doi:10.1093/screen/hjr012.
  4. ^ "La Biennale di Venezia – The origin". 2017-04-07. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  5. ^ Bergamin Barbato, Maria; Mio, Chiara (1 March 2007). "Accounting and the Development of Management Control in the Cultural Sphere: The Case of the Venice Biennale". Accounting, Business & Financial History. 17 (1): 187–208. doi:10.1080/09585200601127871.
  6. ^ Evans, Owen (1 April 2007). "Border Exchanges: The Role of the European Film Festival". Journal of Contemporary European Studies. 15 (1): 23–33. doi:10.1080/14782800701273318.
  7. ^ "Venice Biennale site".
  8. ^ Ben-Ghiat, Ruth (2015). Italian Fascism's Empire Cinema. Indiana University Press. pp. 4–5.
  9. ^ a b Taillibert, Christel; Wäfler, John (2016-01-02). "Groundwork for a (pre)history of film festivals". New Review of Film and Television Studies. 14 (1): 5–21. doi:10.1080/17400309.2015.1106688. ISSN 1740-0309.
  10. ^ a b Hibbert, Christopher (1989). Venice: The Biography of a City. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. pp. 315–320. ISBN 978-0-393-02676-4.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "ASAC Dati". (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  12. ^ a b c Stone, Marla (2002), "The Last Film Festival", Re-viewing Fascism, Indiana University Press, pp. 293–314, doi:10.2307/j.ctt2005t72.15, ISBN 9780253109149
  13. ^ a b c d "History of the Venice Film Festival". 2017-12-07. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  14. ^ Shoard, Catherine (2018-07-25). "Best program ever: Mike Leigh, Coens and Cuaron set for Venice film festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Venice Film Festival winner list". Variety. 2018-09-08. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Carnival of Venice, Marcello Mastroianni Award". Carnival of Venice. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  17. ^ "Four new "Orizzonti" awards". Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Carnival of Venice, Portale di Venezia® – The 1930s". Carnival of Venice. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  19. ^ a b c "La Biennale di Venezia – The 30s". Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  20. ^ "Golden Lions and major awards of the Venice Film Festival". Archived from the original on 14 April 2004. Retrieved 22 July 2018.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°24′22″N 12°22′02″E / 45.405975°N 12.367290°E / 45.405975; 12.367290