Venice, August 30, 2021- From 1-11 September 2021 at Venice Lido, during the year for the 1600th anniversary of the foundation of Venice, the 78th Venice International Film Festival kicks off, organized by La Biennale di Venezia, and directed by Alberto Barbera: the aim of the festival is to promote and spread a deeper knowledge of the international movie scene in all its forms as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue.
Here a short introduction about the ancient roots of the Biennale Cinema.
The first International Film Festival dates back to 1932 and was a part of the eighteenth Venice Biennale. The Festival, called “1st International Film Festival”, was born with an idea of the then president of the Venice Biennale, Count Giuseppe Volti, together with the sculptor Antonio Maraini, the Festival’s secretary general, and Luciano De Feo, secretary general of the Educational Film Union (branch of the League of Nation, based in Rome), who agreed with the idea of carrying out the Festival in the lagoon city and was the first director and recruiter.
The first edition was carried out from the 6th to the 21st of August in 1932 and was the first international event of this kind: it was entirely held on the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior at Venice Lido and, although it was not yet regarded as a competition, there were already titles of great merit, which later on became true “classic” in the history of cinema. Among these should be noted “Forbidden”, by the great American director Frank Capra, “Grand Hotel” by Edmund Goulding, “The Champ” by King Vidor, the first and unmatched “Frankenstein” by James Whale. The prominent personages of these movies were present, bringing over 25 thousand spectators to the halls of the Venice Lido. We are talking about some of the greatest stars of that age like Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Fredric March, Loretta Young, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, not to forget Italian idol Vittorio De Sica and the great Boris Karloff, remembered for his role as the monster in the first “Frankenstein”. The very first film in the festival was shown on the evening of August 6, 1932: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Rouben Mamoulian. The first Italian film “Gli uomini, che mascalzoni… “ (Men, Those Rascals…) by Mario Camerini, was introduced on the evening of August 11, 1932.
Due to the lack of a jury and the awarding of official prizes, introduced only later, a list of acknowledgements was decided by popular vote and announced by the Organizing Committee, on which presided Attilio Fontana of the I.C.E (Institute of Foreign Trade): from this the best director was declared – Russian Nikolaj Ekk for the film “The Road to Life”, while the film by René Clair “Give Us Liberty” was voted as the funniest. Best actress was awarded to Helen Hayes, while for best actor Fredric March. The “most moving” turned out to be the American movie “The Sin of Madelon Claudet”, by Edgar Selwyn.
The second edition was held two years later, in 1934, and was the first competitive edition: at least 19 nations participated, including more than 300 confirmed journalists. The festival became an annual event in 1935, due to its overwhelming international success. In that same year the Mussolini Cup was introduced, as the first official award for the Best Italian and Foreign Film, even if there was no official jury: it was the presidency of the Biennale that decreed the winners of the awards. In addition to the Mussolini Cup, the Great Gold Medals of the National Fascist Association for Entertainment were introduced, as well as the acting awards for the best performances and for young filmmakers.
With its growing notoriety and prestige, the number of works and countries participating in the competition also increased. However, starting from this edition and until the end of the post-war period, no more Soviet films would participate, while the prestigious award for actors was changed into the "Volpi Cup", named after the count Giuseppe Volpi of Misurata, father of the festival.
From one edition to the other, many innovations occurred: during the 1937 edition, the new Cinema Palace was inaugurated, a work by the architect Luigi Quagliata, built in record time following the “modernism” trend, widespread at the time and since then never left behind in the history of the festival, except between 1940 and 1948.
The 1940s represent one of the most difficult moments for the festival itself, due to the ongoing wars: the 1940, 1941, 1942 editions took place in Venice, but were carried out in places far away from the Venice Lido. Few were the countries participating. The festival resumed full speed in 1946, after the war, even if the festival took place at the Cinema San Marco, due to the requisition of the Cinema Palace by the allies.
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. In 1947 the festival was held in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace, the most magnificent backdrop hosting a record of 90 thousand participants. In 1947 also occurred the restoration of the international jury to award the International Grand Prix of Venice.
The always growing relevance of the festival led to a demand for wider spaces: between 2000 and 2001 the direction focused on the development of infrastructures, combining historical building with new wide locations, either renewed or specifically created for the festival, improving the connections between different areas of the city and giving the festival a total available space of about 11,000 square feet.