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 an annual film festival held in Venice, Italy. It is the world's oldest film festival and one of the "Big Five" International film festivals worldwide, which include the Big Three European Film Festivals, alongside the Toronto Film Festival in Canada and the Sundance Film Festival in the United States.[1][2][3] These festivals are internationally renowned for giving creators the artistic freedom to express themselves through film.[4] In 1951, FIAPF formally accredited the festival.[5]

Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica
International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art
Venice Cinema Palace on the Lido island
LocationVenice, Italy
Founded6 August 1932; 91 years ago (1932-08-06)
Artistic directorAlberto Barbera
(since 2011)
No. of films92 in 2021
Current: 80th

Founded by Giuseppe Volpi, member of the National Fascist Party and grandfather of famous producer Marina Cicogna in Venice in August 1932, the festival is part of the Venice Biennale, one of the world's oldest exhibitions of art, created by the Venice City Council on 19 April 1893.[6] The range of work at the Venice Biennale now covers Italian and international art, architecture, dance, music, theatre, and cinema.[7] These works are experienced at separate exhibitions: 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.[citation needed]

The festival is held in late August or early September on the island of the Lido in the Venice Lagoon. During the festival, Venice hosts many events and parties, interviews and meetings with filmmakers and actors every night, venues open all night, and parties are held in beautiful casino palaces and gardens.[8] Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. The festival continues to be one of the world's most popular and fastest-growing.[9] The 81st Venice International Film Festival will be held from 28 August to 7 September 2024.





During the 1930s, the government and Italian citizens were heavily interested in film. Of the money Italians spent on cultural or sporting events, most of it went for movies.[10] The majority of films screened in Italy were American, which led to government involvement in the film industry and the yearning to celebrate Italian culture in general.[11] With this in mind, the Venice International Film Festival was created by Giuseppe Volpi, Luciano de Feo, and Antonio Maraini in 1932.[12][13][11] Volpi, a statesman, wealthy businessman, and avid fascist who had been Benito Mussolini's minister of finance, was appointed president of the Venice Biennale the same year. Maraini served as the festival's secretary general, and de Feo headed its executive committee.[13]

On the night of 6 August 1932, the festival opened with a screening of the American film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the terrace of the Excelsior Palace Hotel. A total of nine countries participated in the festival, which ended on 21 August.[13]

No awards were given at the first festival, but an audience referendum was held to determine which films and performances were most praiseworthy. The French film À Nous la Liberté was voted the Film Più Divertente (the Funniest Film). The Sin of Madelon Claudet was chosen the Film Più Commovente (the Most Moving Film) and its star, Helen Hayes, the best actress. Most Original Film (Film dalla fantasia più originale) was given to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and its leading man, Fredric March, was voted best actor.[13]

Despite the success of the first festival, it did not return in 1933. In 1934, the festival was declared to be an annual event, and participation grew from nine countries to seventeen. That year the festival also gave its first official awards, namely the Mussolini Cup for Best Italian Film, the Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film, and the Corporations Ministry Cup. Seventeen awards were given: fourteen to films and three to individuals. Five films received honorable mentions.[13]

The third installment of the festival in 1935 was headed by its first artistic director, Ottavio Croze, who maintained this position until World War II. The following year, a jury was added to the festival's governing body; it had no foreign members.[13] The majority of funds for the festival came from the Ministry of Popular Culture, with other portions from the Biennale and the city of Venice.[14]

The year 1936 marked another important development in the festival. A law crafted by the Ministry of Popular Culture made the festival 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 control it.[14]

The fifth year of the festival saw the establishment of its permanent home. Designed and completed in 1937, the Palazzo del Cinema was built on the Lido. It has since been the site for every Venice Film Festival, except the three years from 1940 to 1942, when it was held outside of Venice fear of bombing that never came.[12]


The Doge's Palace in Piazza San Marco hosted the 1947 edition.

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.[15] 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.[14]

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 with an agreement with the newly reborn Cannes Film Festival, which had just held its first review in the spring of that year. With the return to normality, Venice once again became a great icon of the film world.[15]

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.[15]

Development and closure

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 blew 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.[citation needed]

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 due to the Years of Lead. In 1973, 1977 and 1978, the festival was not even held. The Golden Lion didn't make its return until 1980.[15]


Term Director
1979–1983 Carlo Lizzani
1983–1987 Gian Luigi Rondi
1987–1992 Guglielmo Biraghi
1992–1996 Gillo Pontecorvo
1996–1998 Felice Laudadio
1998–2002 Alberto Barbera
2002–2004 Moritz de Hadeln
2004–2011 Marco Müller
since 2011 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.

In 2004 an independent and parallel film festival, Giornate degli Autori, was created in association with 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,[16] 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), The Shape of Water (2017), The Favourite (2018), Roma (2018), Joker (2019), Nomadland (2020), Dune (2021), The Whale (2022) and Poor Things (2023).

In 2017 a new section for virtual reality films was introduced. Initially this section was called Venice Virtual Reality, but in 2022 the organisation announced the new name to be Venice Immersive.[17] The Venice Film Festival was the first of the "Big Five" international film festivals worldwide to introduce virtual reality to the festival programme.[18] Therefore, Venice Immersive is globally the most important podium for the emerging medium within film to date.[19][20]

In 2018 Roma by Alfonso Cuarón won the Golden Lion and became the first movie produced by a streaming service, Netflix, to win at a major film festival.[21]



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 Culture every 4 years. The current president is Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, appointed on 20 March 2024.[22] Previously the post has been held for 12 years by Paolo Baratta (2008–2020).

The director of the Festival is responsible for coordinating the events and is chosen by the president of the Venice Biennale and its delegates. The current director Alberto Barbera was appointed on 27 December 2011. On 27 October 2020 Barbera's term was renewed for 4 more years until 2024.[23] In May 2024, his last mandate was extended until 2026.[24] He previously held the position from 1998 to 2002.

Festival programme


The goal of the Venice Film Festival is to "raise awareness and promote international cinema in all its forms, including art, entertainment and industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue."[25] The Venice Film Festival is organized in various sections:[26]

  • Official Selection - The main event of the festival.
    • In Competition - About 21 films competing for the Golden Lion.
    • Out of Competition - Maximum of 18 important works of the year will be presented but do not compete for the main prize.
    • Orizzonti - The films that represent the latest trends in international cinema by young talents will be presented.
    • Venice Classics - Selection of the finest restoration of classic films will be featured.
    • Sconfini - Maximum of 10 works that typically includes art house and genre films, experimental works, TV series and cross-media productions will be featured.
    • Venice Immersive - Maximum of 30 works in competition and out of competition will be presented.[27]
  • Independent and Parallel Sections - These are alternative programmes dedicated to discover other aspects of cinema.
    • International Critics' Week - No more than 8 debut films will be screened with its own regulations.
    • Giornate degli Autori - No more than 12 films will be promoted by ANAC and 100 Autori Association.


Todd Phillips with the Golden Lion won by his film Joker at the 2019 edition
Valeria Golino winning the Volpi Cup for Best Actress in 2015 for Per amor vostro
Abraham Attah winning the Marcello Mastroianni Award in 2015 for Beasts of No Nation

The Film Festival has four Juries to judge the entries: Venezia 79, Orizzonti, Premio Venezia Opera Prima “Luigi De Laurentiis”, and Venice Immersive.[28]The Film Festival's current awards are:

Official selection: In competition

  • Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro), awarded to the best film screened in competition at the festival. The award was introduced in 1949 as the Golden Lion of San Marco
  • Grand Jury Prize, awarded to the second best film screened in competition at the festival
  • Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento), awarded to the best director in the competitive section
  • Special Jury Prize, awarded to the third best film screened in competition at the festival
  • Volpi Cup (Coppa Volpi), awarded to the best actor/actress
  • Golden Osella, awarded for the Best Screenplay and/or for the Best Technical Contribution (cinematography, music, etc.)
  • 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[29]
  • Special Lion, awarded for an overall work to a director or actor of a film presented in the main competition section.

Orizzonti (Horizons)


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:[30]

  • 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

More awards were added in the following years:[26]

  • The Orizzonti Award for Best Director
  • The Orizzonti Award for Best Actor
  • The Orizzonti Award for Best Actress
  • The Orizzonti Award for Best Screenplay

Venice Immersive


This is the Extended Reality section of the Venice Film Festival and Venice Biennale, founded in 2017. This section is devoted entirely to immersive media and includes all Extended Reality means of creative and cinematographic expression.[31]

The awards under this section are:[32]

  • Venice Immersive Grand Prize (Gran Premio)
  • Venice Immersive Special Jury Prize (Premio Speciale della Giuria)
  • Venice Immersive Achievement Prize (Premio per la Realizzazione)

Giornate degli Autori


The Giornate degli Autori (formerly Venice Days) is an independent and parallel section founded in 2004 in association with Venice Film Festival. It is modeled on the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. Anac and 100autori which are both associations of Italian film directors and authors are engaged to support and promote the Giornate.

The awards under this sections are:[33]

  • Giornate Degli Autori (GDA) Award
  • Label Europa Cinema Award
  • BNP Paribas People's Choice Award

Lion of the Future (Luigi De Laurentis)

Lion of the Future

All the debut feature films in the various competitive sections in the Venice Film Festival, whether in Official Selection or Independent and Parallel Sections, are eligible for this award. The winner will be awarded a prize of US$100,000, which to be divided equally between the director and the producer.[26]

Glory to the Filmmaker Award

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 (2006-2020) and Cartier (2021- today). It is dedicated to personalities who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema.[34]

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
2013 Ettore Scola Italy
2014 James Franco United States
2015 Brian De Palma
2016 Amir Naderi Iran
2017 Stephen Frears United Kingdom
2018 Zhang Yimou China
2019 Costa-Gavras Greece
2020 Abel Ferrara United States
2021 Ridley Scott United Kingdom
2022 Walter Hill United States
2023 Wes Anderson

Past Awards


Audience referendum


At the first film festival in 1932, due to the lack of a jury and the awarding of official awards, the list of thanks was decided by public voting, which was determined by the number of people flocking to the film and announced by the organizing committee. As a result, it was announced that the best director was Nikolai Ekk's film "The Road to Life" from Russia, while Ren é Clair's film "The Road to Freedom" was selected as the best film.[citation needed]

Mussolini Cup (Coppa Mussolini)


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 ousting in 1943.[35][36]

Mussolini Cup for Best Italian film

Year Film Original title Director(s)
1934 Loyalty of Love Teresa Confalonieri Guido Brignone
1935 Casta Diva Carmine Gallone
1936 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 Augusto Genina

Mussolini Cup for Best foreign film

Year Film Original title Director(s) Country
1934 Man of Aran Robert J. Flaherty United Kingdom, Irish Free State
1935 Anna Karenina Clarence Brown United States
1936 Der Kaiser von Kalifornien Luis Trenker Nazi Germany
1937 Life Dances On Un carnet de bal Julien Duvivier France
1938 Olympia Leni Riefenstahl Nazi Germany
1940 Der Postmeister Gustav Ucicky
1941 Ohm Krüger Hans Steinhoff
1942 The Great King Der große König Veit Harlan

Great Gold Medals of the National Fascist Association for Entertainment


"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.[35]

The first time this prize was awarded to Katharine Hepburn for her role in Little Women by George Cukor.[35]

Audience Referendum


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

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

See also



  1. ^ Anderson, Ariston (24 July 2014). "Venice: David Gordon Green's 'Manglehorn,' Abel Ferrara's 'Pasolini' in Competition Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  2. ^ Valck, Marijke de; Kredell, Brendan; Loist, Skadi (26 February 2016). Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge. ISBN 9781317267218.
  3. ^ "50 unmissable film festivals". Variety. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  4. ^ 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. ISSN 0036-9543.
  5. ^ Moeran, Brian; Jesper, Strandgaard Pedersen (2011). Negotiating Values in the Creative Industries: Fairs, Festivals and Competitive Events. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-107-00450-4.
  6. ^ "La Biennale di Venezia – The origin". 7 April 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  7. ^ 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. S2CID 154228824.
  8. ^ "International Venice Film Festival |". Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  9. ^ 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. S2CID 143590320.
  10. ^ Ben-Ghiat, Ruth (2015). Italian Fascism's Empire Cinema. Indiana University Press. pp. 4–5.
  11. ^ a b Taillibert, Christel; Wäfler, John (2 January 2016). "Groundwork for a (pre)history of film festivals" (PDF). New Review of Film and Television Studies. 14 (1): 5–21. doi:10.1080/17400309.2015.1106688. ISSN 1740-0309. S2CID 190859918. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 March 2020.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "ASAC Dati". (in Italian). Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ a b c d "History of the Venice Film Festival". 7 December 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  16. ^ Shoard, Catherine (25 July 2018). "Best program ever: Mike Leigh, Coens and Cuaron set for Venice film festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  17. ^ "La Biennale Cinema 2022: Venice Immersive". La Biennale. 8 August 2022. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  18. ^ O’Callaghan, Paul (12 September 2017). "Immersion island: virtual reality at the 2017 Venice Film Festival". British Film Institute. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  19. ^ Brooks, Xan (4 September 2023). "Venice's brave new world: my cosmic trip to Immersion Island and back". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  20. ^ "Venice Immersive: the Virtual Reality side of a film festival by Jose Antunes - ProVideo Coalition". 30 August 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  21. ^ "Venice Film Festival winner list". Variety. 8 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  22. ^ (in Italian) Biennale di Venezia, Roberto Cicutto nominato presidente Archived 5 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine, la Repubblica, 28 January 2020
  23. ^ Venice Film Festival extends Alberto Barbera as artistic director to 2024 Archived 5 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine,, 28 October 2020
  24. ^ Roxborough, Scott (10 May 2024). "Alberto Barbera Extends Contract as Venice Film Festival Director Through 2026". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 July 2024.
  25. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2022 | 79th Festival". La Biennale di Venezia. 2 August 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  26. ^ a b c "Biennale Cinema 2019 | Regulations". La Biennale di Venezia. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  27. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2023 | Venice Immersive". La Biennale di Venezia. 2 August 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  28. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2022 | 79th Festival". La Biennale di Venezia. 2 August 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  29. ^ "Carnival of Venice, Marcello Mastroianni Award". Carnival of Venice. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  30. ^ "Four new "Orizzonti" awards". Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2023: Venice Immersive". La Biennale Cinema. 2 August 2023. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  32. ^ "Official 2023 Venice Immersive selection announced". 20 July 2023.
  33. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2019 | The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Award". La Biennale di Venezia. 22 August 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Carnival of Venice, Portale di Venezia – The 1930s". Carnival of Venice. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  35. ^ a b c "La Biennale di Venezia – The 30s". Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  36. ^ "Golden Lions and major awards of the Venice Film Festival". Archived from the original on 14 April 2004. Retrieved 22 July 2018.

Further reading

  • Brunetta, Gian Piero (2022). La Mostra internazionale d'arte cinematografica di Venezia 1932–2022 (in Italian). Venezia: Marsilio. ISBN 978-88-297-1504-6.

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