Let the screening begin

As someone who is passionate about cinema it has always been my dream to attend a movie premiere. What could be better than meeting my favorite director, producer or actor?  I imagine that walking the red carpet is a glamorous experience and that seeing a movie before it debuts in theaters makes the whole situation even more interesting.  If I could choose to attend any premiere, it would have to be at the world’s oldest film festival, the Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, best known in English as the Venice Film Festival.

 

The red carpet at the Venice Film Festival

The red carpet at the Venice Film Festival

The oldest film festival

The first Venice Film Festival was held in August 1932 as part of the 18th Venice Biennale. Held on the terrace of the famous Hotel Excelsior on the Venice Lido, the festival had not yet developed into a film competition, but instead featured a series of great films that would become classics in the history of cinema, such as Grand Hotel by Edmund Goulding and It Happened One Night by Frank Capra. The first movie screening of the film festival in Venice was the debut of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian.

 

The audience at the first Venice Film Festival in 1932 watch a screening on the terrace of the Excelsior Hotel

The audience at the first Venice Film Festival in 1932 watch a screening on the terrace of the Excelsior Hotel

 

A poster for

A poster for Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

An annual show not to be missed

Since 1935, the Venice Film Festival has become an annual event that welcomes international guests and filmmakers. Following the success of its first edition, the cinema festival has featured a prestigious international jury that awards prizes to the top films. The top honor is the Leone d’oro [The Golden Lion].

 

Winners of the prizes at the Venice Film Festival in 1959 included Italian actor Alberto Sordi

Winners of the prizes at the Venice Film Festival in 1959 included Italian actor Alberto Sordi

 

The festival program also extends beyond film screenings and awards ceremonies, thanks in part to the presence of actors and directors eager to talk about their latest work. During the weeks of the exhibition Venice offers a rich calendar of events that includes lectures, exhibits, meetings, interviews and dazzling parties and galas.

 

An evening gala at the Excelsior Hotel

An evening gala at the Excelsior Hotel

 

The actors who have appeared on the big screen over the years of the festival’s history include classic acting legends such as Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford.  A huge number of spectators, over 25,000 to be precise, have been drawn to Venice’s shores by the elite group of talented international directors, including John Ford, Josef von Sturnberg, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, Fritz Lang, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Andrej Tarkovskij, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almódovar and many more.

 

Sophia Loren at the Venice Film Festival

Sophia Loren at the Venice Film Festival

 

Cinema revolution

The Venice Film Festival has been a pioneer in revolutionizing cinema.  On its screens Japanese, Indian and Eastern European films gained recognition for the first time, talented actors and directors were discovered and new schools of film thought, such as French New Wave and Italian Neorealism, found their footing.

However, these advances in cinema often came with considerable conflict and controversy. From the first edition of the festival in 1934, when Gustav Machaty’s movie Ecstasy contained levels of nudity and the depiction of sexual enjoyment until then unseen in public cinema, the subject matter of the films often challenged contemporary sensibilities.

 

A poster announces the first Venice Film Festival in 1932

A poster announces the first Venice Film Festival in 1932

 

Perhaps the greatest challenges to the festival came in the late 1960s when larger protests by students and workers throughout Europe led to the demand for a more egalitarian and wider-reaching festival structure.  In 1968 respected Italian directors, such as Liliana Cavani, Marco Ferreri and Pier Paolo Pasolini, openly protested the festival and for a few of the following editions the event was suspended.

 

The director Pier Paolo Pasolini at the highly contested Venice Film Festival in 1968

The director Pier Paolo Pasolini at the highly contested Venice Film Festival in 1968

The Venice Film Festival today

This year, from August 28 to September 7, the Venice Film Festival 2013 will celebrate an important milestone, its 70th edition. To celebrate the anniversary, 70 directors were given complete freedom to make short films for Venice 70 – Future Reloaded, a collaborative homage to the oldest film festival in the world. I can’t wait for the festival to begin!

 

The Venice Film festival entrance

The entrance to the Venice Film festival

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