The Venice Film Festival

Venice Film Festival is one of the three most significant film festivals around the globe, the other two being The Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. The Big Three film festivals are internationally recognized as giving filmmakers a platform where they can showcase and express their work without any bounds.

The original Italian name for the Venice Film Festival is ‘Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia,’which is known in English as ‘International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale.’ Each year during the end of August or the start of September, celebrities and filmmakers meet up on the Lido Island in the Venice Lagoon to celebrate the Venice Film Festival.

a picture of the 65th Venice Film Festival entrance

The 1930s

During the 1930s, the Italian citizens and the government became much interested in the film industry. The ordinary people in Italy became known to spend much of their entertainment budget on movies. However, the Italian industry had no standing of itself. The majority of the films that were played in Italian cinemas were American. This deprivation of Italian culture from the filming industry pushed the Italian government to take some initiatives. They had a keen interest in commemorating the Italian culture through cinema.

With this motive, the Venice Film Festival was founded in 1932. The people behind the creation of the festival are named as Giuseppe Volpi, Luciano de Feo, and Antonio Maraini. The three gentlemen were charged with the following authoritative positions: Volpi as the President of the Venice Biennale; Maraini as the Festival’s Secretary-General; and Feo led the Executive Committee for the Venice Festival.

The First Venice Film Festival Event

The first movie to be screened as the inauguration of the Venice Film Festival was an American film ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ The screening was done at the extravagant terrace of the Excelsior Palace Hotel, and a total of nine countries participated in this event. The first-ever Venice Festival ended on the 21st of August ‘1932.

The first Venice Film Festival did not present any awards; however, an audience referendum was conducted to find out which performances deserved the most praise. Even though the first Venice Festival was a hit among the masses, there was no festival held in the next year. The festival returned in 1934 and was declared an annual festival. The second event was joined by seventeen countries from all over the world.

The Second Venice Film Festival

The second Venice Film Festival saw the introduction of the award granting ceremony. The most prominent awards of the function were the Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film, the Mussolini Cup for Best Italian Film, and the Corporations Ministry Cup. A total of seventeen awards were presented that night, with fourteen going to specific movies and three being awarded to individuals.

The first artistic director was appointed for the movie festival in 1935. OttavioCroze also headed that year’s Venice Festival. The next year witnessed the introduction of a jury to the governing body. The panel reportedly had no foreign members. Ministry of Popular Culture was responsible for funding the majority of the Festival’s expenses with remaining portions funded by the Biennale and the city of Venice.

During 1936, the Ministry of Popular Culture drew out a law that turned the Venice Film Festival into an autonomous entity. Consequentially, other organizations such as the Department of Cinema and the National Federation of Entertainment Industries took control over the event.

The Venue for the Venice Film Festival

In 1937, a permanent venue for conducting the Venice Film Festival was designed and completed. Named the Palazzo del Cinema, the building is constructed on the island of Lido. Since then, the event has been organized in this venue except for the three years from 1940 to 1942. This was the time when the festival was moved out of Venice for fear of bombing.

The 1940s

In 1941, a Nazi propaganda movie ‘Heimkehr’ was screened and ended winning an Italian award presented by the Ministry of Popular Culture. Due to the conflicts, the situation deteriorated to the point where the annual award for the year 1940, 1941, and 1942 was organized somewhere outside Lido. Moreover, the festival was renamed in the year 1940 to become the Italian-German Film Festival. The event was held under this name until 1942. Later, the festival was halted due to the war-ridden situation.

However, during 1946, the festival came back with full enthusiasm. The annual festival for the year 1946 was held in September. This was in accord with a settlement made with the Cannes Film Festival that had made its introduction into the filming world that year.

The 1947 Venice Film Festival is considered to be one of the most iconic events in the history of the Venice Film Festival. That year the festival was held in Doge’s Palace. A total of ninety thousand attendees joined the celebration.

The Development Of The Festival

Under the six-year reign of Luigi Chiarini, the director of the festival, the event followed a path of consistency and order. Chiarini put rigid criteria for the awards and stood firm against political and commercial pressures to compromise on the quality of the Venice Film Festival. Chiarini aspired and achieved a revamp of the overall festival structure and systems.

After massive unrest, the festival slowly died down between 1969-1979. No trophies were awarded, and the competition ultimately died down. The event was not even conducted in the years 1973, 1977, and 1978.

The Climb Back To Fame

The Golden Lion made a massive and strong comeback in 1980. The newly appointed director, Carlo Lizzani, made great efforts to restore the image of the festival to where it started.


The Venice Film Festival helped paved the way for the Italian culture and filmmaking to be portrayed to the international cinematography world. The festival survived through thick and thin and currently stands tall as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.