Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

The Venice Film Festival


The Venice Film Festival is held every year at the Lido of Venice, in the historic ‘Palazzo del Cinema’ and in the surrounding buildings.  For ten days, the Lido turns into a minor version of Hollywood, with many international actors, that – I’m sure of it – also love to take the chance to visit such a fantastic location and – I bet – feel even more like movie stars. Italians love whoever is famous, and they like to prove it to them by camping outside hotels and restaurants. No wonder the job of a paparazzi first originated here. 

The actors are whisked from the mainland to the Lido aboard those 60’s style ‘motoscafi’, those speed boats so reminiscent of the ‘La dolce vita’ 60’s, to add style and glamour to even the less famous. You also can take part to this event. The island of the Lido is easily reachable by vaporetto and ferry boat. In addition to a hectic schedule of screenings that can be accessed with a single ticket (ticket offices are either online or locally), all kinds of events will go on during this time, cocktails, presentations, ceremonies.

If Cannes rewards talent with the Palme d’Or, and so does Berlin with the Golden Bear, the main prize of the Venice Film Festival is undoubtedly the Golden Lion, which owes its name to the symbol of the city (the lion of St. Mark’s Basilica), and it is just as prestigious as the recognitions assigned at the other major European film festivals.

Truth to be told, the International Film Festival of Venice, or Venice Film Festival, is the oldest film festival in the world. The inaugural edition was held in 1932 and since then it’s been organized by the Biennale, one of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions. Its President, Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, decided, in that year, to present an overview of national movies, in hope to prolong the season of the many hotels on the Lido. He called it “a little propaganda” of his agenda. It quickly became more than that. The festival turned into an international event and drew the likes of King Vittorio Emanuele of Italy and other prominent personalities.
After WWII, in 1946, it was renamed the “International Film Festival” with the famous Lion of St. Mark making its first appearance in 1949, and becoming a Golden Lion in the 50’s. 

As every international contest The Venice Film Festival comes with its share of trivia and anecdotes.  The first movie that really shocked the audience at the Festival was “Ecstasy” directed by Czechoslovak Gustav Machaty in 1934, where the actress Hedwig Kieslerova appeared in the first scene in full nudity.

Then the 1960’s one is certainly remembered as the most contested edition, as the jury failed to award the Golden Lion to “Rocco and His Brothers”, one of Luchino Visconti’s most extraordinary works. The prize went to the director French André Cayatte instead for the opera “The passage of the Rhine.” The audience loudly showed its disapproval by booing throughout the screening of the movie and also during the entire ceremony. This was the second big snub from the jury of the Festival, who already had failed to present the Italian director in 1954 for the movie “Senso”, and instead favored “Romeo and Juliet” by Renato Castellani.

This year’s 71st edition will run from August 27th to September 6th.  As always, the festival aims to present and broadcast international cinematography as a form of art and industry, and to contribute to a better knowledge of the history of cinema, paying homage to its protagonists with retrospectives and showcases. 

The International Film Festival represents one of the many attractions that Venice has to offer. And Venice represents one the many attractions of Italy, one more reason for you to begin planning the trip of a life.

Here you can see this year’s program:

Nicoletta Lucia Paganucci