Venice Film Festival

History and curiosity about the oldest film festival in the world

Framed in the vast stage of the Biennale, the first Venice film festival was in 1932 and enjoys the distinction of the oldest film festival in the world: large projections, celebrity guests and unique festivals enliven the historic Palazzo del Cinema of Venice – Lido. The mostra del cinema di Venezia offers variable dates between August and early September.

From the point of view of the critics, the most important award is the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and considered one of the most prestigious film awards, like the Golden Palm in Cannes and the Golden Bear of Berlin.


Venice International Film Festival - How to Get there

- from Venice St Lucia train station and Piazzale Roma: water bus line 1/2/6 or 5.1/5.2 to Lido S. Maria Elisabetta stop

- by car: boarding point of Ferry Boat /ACTV ferry

- from Venice Marco Polo Airport: Alilaguna service red-line to Lido Santa Maria Elisabetta stop

Throughout the Venice Film Festival dates, transport is available until the end of the night screenings.

The Venice Film Festival
Bookable services

The history of the Venice Film Festival


The origins

The projection of the first great classic film and the participation of famous directors and actors who attended the Venice Film Festival in 1932 attracted over 25 thousand spectators: although it was not yet competitive - the Venice film festival prizes took place following a referendum amongst the audience - the 1st Venice Film Festival history started with big numbers!

The first competitive event dates back to 1934 when the Venice film festival prizes were assigned by the President of the Biennale, after hearing the views of experts and the public.

Since 1935 the editions of the Biennale Venice Film Festival become an annual event and, given the growing success and the presence of international guests and film makers, from the following year the awards at the Biennale Venezia Film Festival were assigned to a prestigious international Venice film festival jury.

In 1937 the new Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Lido was inaugurated and became the exclusive location for almost all future editions of the Venice Film Festival.

Since the end of the Thirties until the end of the war, the Venice international film festival history underwent profound repercussions and thus, the editions from 1940 to 1942 were later invalidated. However, 1938 should be remembered as the first retrospective of the festival, which brought French masterpieces of the '30s to Venice.

In 1946 the Venice Film Festival in Lido tried to recover its liberty that was lost during the Fascist and Nazi influences. These were the years of the great films of Italian neorealism and the return of international directors and stars to Venice.

Set in the magnificent Doge’s Palace and with a record of 90,000 visitors, the Venice Film Festival of 1947 is considered one of the best editions of the festival.


The Fifties, Sixties and Seventies

The Fifties marked the international expansion of the Biennale Cinema Venezia: Japanese, Indian and Eastern European films attracted big directors and stars to Lido. In these years many new talents were discovered and both emerging and established authors received international accolades - Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni found their final triumph at the Venice Film Festival - even if some films that were later celebrated as significant Venice Film Festival movies passed almost unnoticed.

Thanks to the free English cinema, the French New Wave and the debut of Italian young authors, the Sixties witnessed the full realization of the international Venice Film Festival program after the war.

The Venice Film Festival facts are not simple, for instance social and political problems of the late sixties also affected the Venice Film Festival programme: from 1969 to 1979 the films at the Venice Film Festival were not rewarded. The only assignments were the first Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement which were given to John Ford and Charlie Chaplin. However the introduction of new side sections and the first public screening of a Chinese documentary should also be remembered. Furthermore, some editions of the festival were also cancelled (1972 and 1978), while from 1974 to 1976 an ‘alternative’ program was presented at the Venice Film Festival. Despite many difficulties and a negative period, the Venice Film Festival screening schedule includes many films indicative of the renewal of cinema in the 70s.


The Eighties

Thanks to the new manager Carlo Lizzani, the Venice Film Festival in Venice in 1979 sought to recover its prestige and authority of the previous decades. Along with an increasing number of films, the Venice Film Festival program included important retrospectives and promoted sections devoted to research ('Officina') and spectacular films ('Midday-Midnight').

The Eighties represented the golden period of the Biennale Venice Film Festival: in addition to marking the affirmation of the new world style of German cinema, it also promoted the visibility of young directors who later became the great authors of cinema. The jury at the Venice Film Festival was made up of only authors and the different sections of the festival were institutionalized.

The Venice Film Festival of 1987 was renewed again and the new program immediately fell in favour of the general public. A continuous search for new authors and unusual works lead the Venice Film Festival towards Indian, Lebanese, Swiss, Norwegian, Korean and Turkish films.

The 1988 edition is remembered by the controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese and the discovery of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. 'Horizons', 'Special Events' and 'Night' also enriched the offerings of the Venice Film Festival.


From the Nineties to the present day

Other renovator of the Venice Film Festival was Gillo Pontecorvo, curator and then director of the Biennale Venice Film Festival, which reorganized the event around three central ideas: to revitalize the area of the Palazzo del Cinema of the Venice Lido, make Venice the capital of film and encourage international guests and great directors to return to the Venice Film Festival.

At the Venice Film Festival, events and initiatives of various kinds bring the Biennale Venice Film Festival into the international spotlight: 'Night' hosts blockbuster movies, bringing Hollywood superstars to Venice, not to mention concerts and 'CinemAvvenire' that for the first time gives young people the opportunity to reward the best film debut. Among the films in the competition at the Venice Film Festival Oriental cinema and young hopefuls of overseas film are highly appreciated.

Towards the end of the Nineties the Venice Film Festival began to strengthen its infrastructure with the construction of a large marquee, the PalaLido to accommodate an ever greater public attendance. The increase of the initiatives of the Venice Film Festival events, screenings, performances and parties, not to mention the ever-increasing presence of celebrities, made it necessary to further expand the facilities and to improve the transport links to the Venice Lido.

Since 2001 the Biennale Venice Film Festival has been promoting new experiments by creating the section 'Cinema of the Present' that awards debuts and 'marginal' and innovative films.

The highlight of those years was the premiere, posthumously, of the last work of Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, which drew celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman to the Venice Film Festival.

The big news of the Venice Film Festival 2002 was the 'Upstream' section which presented films of special vitality and originality, while since 2004 'Digital Cinema' proposed new digital technologies. The retrospective 'The Secret History of Italian Cinema' and 'The Secret History of Asian Cinema' animated the 2004 and 2005 editions of the Venice Film Festival in Lido.

For the first time since the war, in 2006 some films have their world premiere at the Venice Film Festival of the at the Biennale Art Exhibition.

It is undeniable that the Venice Film Festival has had a great influence on the history of cinema by discovering new filmmakers, artists and 'niche' sectors as well as being a catwalk, for visibility and high society, and has nothing to envy to the American Oscars. Between victory and defeat, cheers, controversy and exclusive events, the Venice Film Festival has seen, and sees, pass under its spotlight the elite of world cinema.


The Venice Film Festival between parties and events...

But the program of the Venice Film Festival program is not only screenings and performances: in the period of the exhibition, the Venice Lido offers a rich calendar of side events including exhibitions, presentations, dazzling parties and clubs open all night. The events at the Venice Film Festival dates are not to be missed!

Every night, in the presence of actors and directors, meetings, presentations and interviews enrich the programming of the night screenings of the Venice Film Festival films in the Great Hall. Many structures support the various events, such as the Movie Village, home of press conferences, screenings and an interactive Infopoints which provides information on the nightlife, events and conventions with local businesses in the Venice Lido.

In the gardens of the Casino, the Movie Garden is the ideal destination for true film fans along with industry association stands, home video store where you can find rare films, meetings, music and events.

Among the events to be noted of the Venice International Film Festival are the short films of Circuito Off, famous international festival, organized on the same dates as the Biennale cinema Venezia - Film Festival, which offers alternative and experimental short genre films.

The Venice Film Festival location is historical, the Excelsior Hotel which continues to organize press conferences and large parties. Party and themed evenings also take place on the beach and in different areas of the Lido of Venice while, in addition to the Excelsior, actors, international DJs and journalists will meet at the Quintessentially Terrace and at the Lancia Cafe.


Venice International Film Festival – Venues and Locations

Palazzo del Cinema

Sala Darsena


Palazzo del Casinò


Venice International Film Festival Venice - Services

For the Venice Film Festival tickets are available online from the second half of August. Tickets for the Venice Biennale Film Festival can be booked from the moment the times and cinema rooms are definitive and published. University students may qualify for special credits for the Biennale Venice - Film Festival in Venice.

Free Wi-fi is available in the area adjacent to the location of the International Cinema, P.le Santa Maria Elisabetta and Gran Viale, for the public and professionals.


Venice International Film Festival - Useful contacts

Tel. +39 041 5218711
Fax +39 041 5218854

By Insidecom Editorial Staff