The Venice Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival, founded in 1932, is the world’s oldest film festival and one of the big three; alongside Cannes and Berlin. It is held annually in late August or early September.

Part of the Venice Biennale family, it is commonly known as the “Venice International Film Festival” (Italian: “Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia“).

Held on the barrier island of Lido di Venezia, the combination of location and tradition; makes it a popular destination for the elite of the film industry and its celebrities. The festival continues to be one of the world’s most popular and fastest-growing.

Its aim, is to raise awareness and promote international cinema in all its forms as art, entertainment and as an industry; in a spirit of freedom and dialogue. The Festival also organises retrospectives and tributes to major figures, as a contribution towards a better understanding of the history of cinema.

Screenings take place in the historic “Palazzo del Cinema”, on the Lungomare Marconi, Lido, as well as other venues close by; to cater for the viewing demand from both the pass-holders and public. During the period of the exhibition, the Lido offers a calendar of side events; including exhibitions, presentations, parties and clubs that open all night.

This post updated with provisional information for 2024, was designed to give you the history of the Film Festival and an “idea and feel” for its development and program; based on  the 2021, 78th Festival. Please check with the official website found in the links section below, as the program is yet to be announced.


The 81st Venice Film Festival – 2024

Scheduled dates: 28 August > 7 September. 

The 81st Venice International Film Festival is organized by the Venice Biennale and directed by Alberto Barbera; will take place at the Lido of Venice from 28 August to 7 September 2024. The exhibition is officially recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations).

The exhibition aims to encourage the diffusion of international cinema in all its forms of art, entertainment and industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue. A section is dedicated to the valorisation of classic film restoration operations to contribute to a better knowledge of the history of cinema.

The Venice Biennale also has announced the dates of the other 2024 events:

The Children’s Carnival : 1 > 11 February
60th International Art Exhibition : 20 April > 24 November
52. International Theater Festival : 15 June > 30 June
18. International Contemporary Dance Festival : 18 July > 3 August
68. International Festival of Contemporary Music : 26 September > 10 October


Above: The “Palazzo del Cinema”, Lido di Venezia, during the 71st Venice Film Festival.


The Venice Film Festival – HISTORY TIMELINE

1895. The history of the “Venice Biennale” (It: “La Biennale di Venezia”), dates back from 1895; when the first International Art Exhibition was organised.

1930. The Venice Biennale was transformed into an autonomous board, by a Royal Decree of 1930 and the financing and the board’s articles of association were established in 1931. With this transformation, the Biennale passed from the control of the Venice City Council to that of the Italian fascist state.

During the 1930’s, both the government and Italian citizens were interested in film; indeed, of the money Italians spent on cultural or sporting events, most of it went for movies. 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. Further to this, 1929/30, saw the American “Great Depression”, so the local economy certainly would have needed a boost.

With this in mind, the Venice International Film Festival was created by Giuseppe Volpi, Luciano de Feo and Antonio Maraini in 1932. 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.

Thanks to increased funds and the impulse provided by its president, Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata; new events were set up (Music, Cinema, and Theatre) and the Biennale took on the multidisciplinary character that it has to this day.

Venice Film Festival - Poster from 19321932. The Film Festival appeared for the first time: the 1st edition of the “Esposizione internazionale d’arte cinematografica” (International exhibition of cinematographic art); was held between 6th and 21st August, on the terraces of the Hotel Excelsior, Lido.

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; however, 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 Funniest Film. “The Sin of Madelon Claudet”, was chosen the Most Moving Film and its star Helen Hayes, the best actress. Most Original Film, was given to “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and its leading man, Fredric March was voted best actor. Despite the success of the first festival, it did not return in 1933.

1934. The festival was declared to be an annual event and participation grew from nine countries to seventeen. It also gave its first official awards, namely the “Mussolini Cup”. Seventeen awards were given: fourteen to films and three to individuals. Five films received honourable mentions.[

1935. The 3rd Festival, 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. The majority of funds for the festival, came from the Ministry of Popular Culture; with other contributions from the Biennale and the city of Venice.

1936. This year 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 organisations, such as the Department of Cinema and the Fascist National Federation of Entertainment Industries; to take control of the festival.

Amongst the pre-war films that won awards were Clarence Brown’s “Anna Karenina”, Luis Trenker’s “Der Kaiser von Kalifornien”, “Carnet du bal” by Julien Duvivier and “Olympia” by Leni Riefenstahl.

1937. The 5th Festival saw the establishment of its permanent home, the Palazzo del Cinema, built on the Lido. The Palazzo has since been the site for every Venice Film Festival, with the exception of the three years from 1940 to 1942, when the festival was moved away from Venice for fear of bombing. However, Venice received almost no damage during that time. The Palazzo del Casinò, was built the following year.

Venice Film Festival - Poster from 19461939. Following the outbreak of hostilities during the Second World War, the activities of the Biennale were interrupted in September 1942.
In September 1943, Cinecittà installed itself in the Giardini di Castello, using the pavilions as studios (Cinevillaggio) and remained there until April 1945. The Film Festival was suspended, between 1943 and 1945.

1946. The festival resumed after the war and for the first time was held in the month of September. This was in accordance to an agreement with the newly reborn “Cannes Film Festival”; held in the spring of that year. Jean Renoir’s “The Southerner”, was voted best film by a jury of journalists. With the return to normality, Venice once again became a great icon of the film world.





1947. The festival was held in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace, (Photo left), hosting a record ninety thousand participants. The 1947 festival, is widely considered one of the most successful in its history.

1951. International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), formally accredited the festival.
(Note. The FIAPF, was created in 1933 and is an organisation composed with 36 member associations from 30 of the leading audio-visual production countries. Its Secretariat is located in Brussels, Belgium. FIAPF is also in charge of regulating international film festivals, including some of the world’s most important ones).

1963-1968. Under the directorship of Luigi Chiarini, significant change were made to the festival; as he aspired to renew its spirit and structures; pushing for reorganisation of the entire system.
Rigid criteria were put in place for the selection of works in competition and a firm stand taken against the political pressures and interference of increasingly demanding movie studios. Chiarini, preferred the artistic quality of films; than to the growing commercialisation of the film industry.

1969 to 1979. The social and political unrest of 1968 onward, the so-called “Years of Lead”; had strong repercussions on the Venice Bienniale. 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.

1979–1983. The long-awaited “rebirth” came in 1979, under the stewardship of the new director Carlo Lizzani; who decided to restore the image and value the festival had lost, over the last decade. The 1979 festival, laid the foundation for the restoration of international prestige. In an attempt to create a more modern image of the festival; the new director created a committee of experts, to assist in selecting the works and to increase the number and diversity of submissions to the festival. This led to the 1980’s, being considered as 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 festival program also included important retrospectives, promoted sections devoted to research and spectacular films.

1987. The Venice Film Festival, was renewed again and enjoyed support by the general public. A continuous search for new authors and unusual works, led the Venice Film Festival towards Indian, Lebanese, Swiss, Norwegian, Korean and Turkish films.

1988. This 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.

1992-96. Another renovator of the Venice Film Festival, was Gillo Pontecorvo, curator and then director of the Film Festival, which reorganised the event around three central ideas. These were to revitalise 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.

Further events and initiatives were made, to bring the film festival under the international “spotlight”. ‘Night’ hosts blockbuster movies, bringing Hollywood superstars to Venice, as well as 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, 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, expanding initiatives and facilities and improving the transport links to the Venice Lido. A large marquee, the PalaBiennale was erected; to accommodate the growing public attendance.

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 posthumous premiere 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.

2002. The big news of the Venice Film Festival 2002, was the “Upstream” section, which presented films of special vitality and originality.

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.

2004. An independent and parallel film festival Le Giornate degli Autori, also referred to as “Venice Days”; was created in association with the Festival.

2011. During the recent years, under the direction of Alberto Barbera, the festival established itself as an Oscars launchpad; 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) and Nomadland (2020).

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

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

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.

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. It is not overshadowed by the American “Oscars”!


Current President and Director

The president of the Venice Biennale, represents the festival on behalf of its financial partner, the public authorities and the media. He is chosen by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage every 4 years. The current president is Roberto Cicutto, appointed on 27th January 2020.

The current director Alberto Barbera appointment, was renewed for 4 more years until 2024, on the 27th October 2020. He is responsible for coordinating the events and is chosen by the president of the Venice Biennale and its delegates.


78th Venice Film Festival  1st – 11th September 2021

The “78th Venice International Film Festival” is organised by La Biennale di Venezia and will be held on the Lido di Venezia from 1 to 11 September 2021. The Festival, is officially recognised by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Association).

Its aim is to “raise awareness and promote international cinema in all its forms as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue”. One section is devoted to enhance the restoration works on classic films, as a contribution towards a better understanding of the history of cinema; in particular to the advantage of young audiences.

Films screen in their original language with Italian and English subtitles.




1.The Main Section

  • Venezia 78 Competition. An international competition comprising a maximum of 21 feature-length films.
  • Out of Competition. Works of established authors, films in which the spectacular dimension is accompanied by forms of expressive or narrative originality and documentaries.
  • Orizzonti.  An international competition dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends. Also included is the “Orizzonti Extra” non-competitive section.
  • Biennale College Cinema. An advanced training workshop for the development and production of micro-budget works, open to teams of directors and producers from around the world.
  • Special Screenings. 
  • Venice VR Expanded. A maximum of 30 Immersive Projects in Virtual Reality as world-premieres or international premieres. 360 videos, 3 DOF and 6 DOF interactive works.

Official Awards of the 78th Venice Film Festival – 2021, are presented on Saturday 11th September 2021 during the Awards Ceremony. 

If you are interested to see all the awards of the 77th Venice Film Festival in 2020 (there are too many to name): See link at bottom of post.


2. The autonomous and parallel sections, whose line-up is selected in accordance with their own regulations, include:

  •   The Venice International Film Critics’ Week (Settimana Internazionale della Critica), is an independent and parallel section of the Venice International Film Festival organised by the Union of Italian Film Critics (SNCCI). The programme includes a selection of seven debut films in competition and two special events out of competition.

The Days of the Authors (Giornate degli Autori)”, was conceived in 2004, as an independent sidebar of the Venice Film Festival, modelled on the prestigious ‘Directors’ Fortnight’ of the Cannes Festival and promoted by the associations of Italian film directors and authors. The aim of the event is to draw attention to high quality cinema, without any kind of restriction; with special care for innovation, research, originality and independence. These are all features of the 12 films selected, as well as being reflected in the special events held during the “Days” in the Villa degli Autori. From the beginning, the “Days”, have come to represent a real alternative to the Festival’s official areas and an ideal and more relaxed place for participants to meet and discuss their ideas. All the films participating to the “Days”, are also in competition for the parallel awards; with a ceremony due to take place on the last day of the Festival.

The 11 films selected from all over the world, in addition to other events and any special screenings; are screened in the theatres provided by the Venice Film Festival.

The Official Awards of Giornate degli Autori are:

  •  The Giornate degli Autori Award, given by the Official Jury of Giornate degli Autori. The award consists is accompanied by a cash prize of €20,000, to be split equally between the filmmaker and the film’s international distributor; who agrees to use the sum received to promote the winning film internationally.
  •  The BNL People’s Choice Award for the films of the Official Selection, offered by BNL Gruppo BNP Paribas, Main Sponsor of Giornate degli Autori.
  • The Label Europa Cinemas, dedicated to films produced and co-produced in Europe. The Label was created by a network of high-calibre European exhibitors, with the support of the EU’s MEDIA Programme. It consists of a financial contribution towards distribution and promotion, as well as a guarantee for the winning film that it will be shown in the cinemas belonging to the network.

First films are eligible for the Luigi De Laurentiis Award Lion of the Future, granting 100.000 USD.



PALAZZO DEL CINEMA. The Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido, is the main headquarters for the Venice International Film Festival. Built in record time in the Modernist style of the time; it was inaugurated on August 10th 1937, for the fifth edition of the Festival.

  • Sala Grande (1032 seats)
  • Sala Darsena (1409 seats)
  • Sala Zorzi (48 seats)
  • Sala Parsinetti (119 seats)

The historic Sala Grande, where the main screenings and awards ceremonies of the Festival take place; underwent a series of transformations in the 1950’s, then in 1995 and the final phase in 2011. The latter, entailed a radical restoration of the interiors, which were equipped with the latest technology required, to support the visual and sound standards of the screenings. The restyling of the Sala Grande was inspired by the formal elements of the 1937 building, reinterpreted in a contemporary style and a 1032 seat capacity.

The Sala Darsena, once known as the Pala Galileo, was built on the base of the open-air Arena constructed during the expansion in the 1950’s; adjacent to the Palazzo del Cinema. When it was built, it provided seating for over 1500 people for the evening screenings of the Venice Film Festival. With a laminated wood roof, it was intended to be a temporary solution, before a more radical renovation could begin. In 2014, the Sala Darsena was significantly renovated by the Biennale, with the purpose of turning it into a screening room equal to the Sala Grande. The interiors and technology were updated and a foyer was built to receive the public.


PALAZZO DEL CASINO. The monumental building, was designed by the Chief Engineer of the City of Venice Eugenio Miozzi.  In the Rationalist style, influenced by the Fascist architecture of the 1930’s; it was built in the record time of 8 months in 1938. Compared to the austere facade clad in travertine, the interiors of the Palazzo featured spaces on every floor decorated with marble, mosaic and artistic glass from the finest glasshouses in Murano, designated as gambling rooms, dining rooms and cafés and for entertainment areas. A large entrance hall greeted guests, who could use the monumental staircase, or three large elevators to reach the gambling rooms and terraces on the upper floors. Coming from Venice, one entered through a long hallway decorated with mirrors and curtains; leading to the monumental staircase and served by elevators. The Casino was closed in the late 1990’s and the Palazzo has since been used by the Biennale for the Venice International Film Festival; mainly to house press services and as a venue for screenings.

  • Sala Perla (450 seats)
  •  Sala Volpi (149 seats)
  • Sala Casino (149 seats)
  • Sala Perla 2 (270 seats)


PALA-BIENNALE.  A temporary screening theatre, that hosts screenings for the public. It is the venue with the largest audience of the Festival, having a seating capacity of 1,760. This theatre hosts the much appreciated evening double screening for the audience, that in recent years has become a “must-go” event for film lovers and the Venice Film Festival attenders. During the day, the PalaBiennale hosts screenings for both the public and accredited visitors.


SALA GIARDINO. The Sala Giardino, opened in 2016, is a 35 x 25 metres sized space with a height of 11 metres. The theatre hosts 446 seats, with a screen of 6 x14 metres and is equipped with the most advanced technologies: Dolby 7.1, possibility of 3D, film and digital projections. It is coated inside with sound-absorbing panels and outside insulation; the structure also has room lights with a motorised system, for the lighting of events and delegations, amplification system and devices for simultaneous translation.






  • Lido Arena. A temporary arena recently made available for film viewing at the Skating Track, Via Falier 4, Lido.
  • Piazza del Cinema. Box Office – Railway tickets – Bar – InfoPoint – Spazio Rai (broadcasters).
  •  Area Giardino. Green area – Food and beverage area.
  • Terrazza Biennale. Bar and Restaurant.

During the period of the exhibition, the Lido offers a calendar of side events including exhibitions, presentations, parties and clubs that open all night.

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 Sala Grande.

Many structures support the various events, such as the “Movie Village”, home of press conferences, screenings and an interactive Info-points 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 a destination for film fans; along with industry association stands, a home video store where you can find rare films, meetings, music and other events.

Included in the Film Festival program of events, the “Circuito Off”; offers short films of alternative and experimental genre films.

The historic Excelsior Hotel holds press conferences and large parties. Party and themed evenings also take place on the beach and in different areas of the Lido of Venice. Actors, international DJs and journalists also meet at the Quintessentially Terrace and at the Lancia Cafe.


LINKS (internal external)

81st International Film Festival : 28 August > 7 September. Program yet to be announced. Please check the official Biennale website.

Official Website for Biennale Festivals 2024

“Venice – Calendar of Events 2024”

The Venice Art Biennale

The Venice Architecture Biennale     

The Venice Dance Biennale    

The Venice Music Biennale

The Venice Theatre Biennale    

Other posts in the category of Festival-Regattas-Events


The Venice Film Festival    The Venice Film Festival    The Venice Film Festival      The Venice Film Festival



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