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Venice Film Festival

Read about the Venice Film Festival and what it offers.

Usually held in September of each year, film aficionados, tourists and stargazers attend the Venice Film Festival, the worlds oldest organized film festival. This event takes place in Venice, Italy, the city of canals and gondolas. The Venice Film Festival awards the best film its Golden Lion, one of the most prestigious awards in international film, according to La Biennale di Venezia, the cultural foundation that oversees the festival.

Unlike some other film festivals, the public can attend screenings of the films shown at the Venice Film Festival, which also draws celebrities to the Italian city and gives the festival an aura of Hollywood. The Venice Film Festival is located on the Lido, a narrow island between central Venice and the Adriatic Sea. According to MeetingVenice, the Venice Film Festival ranks as one of the worlds most prestigious, along with the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival.

The 2009 Venice Film Festivalthe 66th such event in historyruns from September 2 to September 12, 2009, according to the La Biennale Darte Cinematografica. The 2008 festival was also held in September 2008 but ended earlier. During that year, The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke, was named best film, earning the Venice Film Festivals Golden Lion (Leone dOro in Italian). The lion is a symbol of Venicea golden winged lion graces the front of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. One of the worlds most important film honors, the Golden Lion is equal in status to the Golden Palm of Cannes, the Golden Bear of Berlin and the Oscar of the Academy Awards.


The La Biennale di Venezia Foundation, a prestigious cultural organization focused on promoting avant-garde art, manages the festival each year. The Venice Film Festival actually began as a small part of the Venice Biennale, an international arts competition, which began in1895. The arts festival quickly grew in stature and soon displayed works by giants such as Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In 1930, the Venetian City council relinquished control of the Venice Biennale to the fascist government of Italy.

The Venice Film Festival, as it is known today, began in 1932 and was devoted to film, music and theater. In 1980, an international architecture competition was added, and 1999 marked the introduction of a dance festival.

During its first year, the Venice Film Festival was held on the terrace of a Venetian hotel, the Excelsior, which is still the spot for many festival activities. The festival was not yet a competitionit included a poll, but not awards. The first film shown at the festival was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Rouben Mamoulian. Numerous Hollywood legends attended the opening, including Clark Gable and Greta Garbo, according to Carnival of Venice. Today, some of Hollywoods biggest names travel to Venice to attend the festival.

The film festival was interrupted for several years by World War II but resumed in 1946. In recent years, the Venice Film Festival has competed for films with the Rome Film Festival and others, according to the UK Telegraph. The festival also has focused on expanding screening space and other renovations. Since the festival is truly international, American films and stars are only a part of it. Italian cinema, for example, has a strong presence at the Venice Film Festival.

Ticket Information

Unlike more private festivals, such as Cannes, the Venice Film Festival offers tickets to the public. Those wishing to attend may obtain tickets through two screening venues: Sala Grande and PalaBiennale, according to La Biennale di Venezia. Visitors must be at least 18 years of age to attend the screenings.

Additional ticket information for each year is published on the foundations Web site. In 2008 and other years, the foundation offered a Biennale Card that entrants could purchase to get into the Venice Film Festival as well as the International Architecture Exhibition, the International Festival of Contemporary Dance and the International Festival of Contemporary Music. Typically, attendees may purchase a gold, silver or platinum Biennale card. All cards allow visitors access to the evening screenings.

The Venice Film Festival is held in the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. The Palabiennale screening room holds 1,700 people and hosts screenings for the public. The Palalido screens films for accredited festivalgoers, such as members of the press or film industry. More details about the venues, including directions, are available on the La Biennale di Venezia Web site. The films are also broadcast on two maxi screens for the public. Typically, a restaurant and bar are open to the public where interviews and other festival activities take place. The Venice Film Festival also operates a Movie Village, where audience members can interact with actors and directors. The Hotel Excelsior, a five-star resort on the Lido, is the best place to spot movie stars and mix with festival attendees outside of the screenings.

How It Works

Historically, the festivals film competitions are divided into the following categories:

  • Veneziathe world premieres of 20 films.
  • Out of Competitionfilms that are considered among the most important that year.
  • Orizzontia section designed to spotlight new trends in cinema.
  • Corto Cortissimothe world premieres of selected short films.
  • Settimana Internazionale della Criticaa related but separate presentation of films by Italian film critics.

An international jury comprised of film professionals judges the films. Acting and directing awards are also presented.

The submission guidelines are strict. Films must not have been shown elsewhere. A panel of experts reviews the film submissions, and films are shown by invitation only. In addition to the Golden Lion, awards at the Venice Film Festival include the Marcello Mastroianni Award, which is given to first-time actors and actresses of promise. The Volpi Cup is also an acting award, and the Silver Lion is a special jury and directors award.

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