August 28, 2007 / 10:29 AM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX - 75 years of Venice Film Festival

REUTERS - The Venice film festival will celebrate its 75th birthday this year with a star-packed line up and top directors including Kenneth Branagh, Brian De Palma, Ken Loach, Peter Greenaway and Ang Lee vying for its top prize.

Children ride their bicycle in front of the Palazzo del Cinema at Venice Lido August 28, 2007. The Venice film festival will celebrate its 75th birthday this year with a star-packed line up and top directors including Kenneth Branagh, Brian De Palma, Ken Loach, Peter Greenaway and Ang Lee vying for its top prize. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

U.S. and British films dominate this year’s festival, which is the world’s oldest movie contest.

Here are some key moments:

* BEGINNINGS:

— The first “Esposizione d’Arte Cinematografica” came into being in 1932. The very first film to be shown was Rouben Mamoulian’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, screened in August 1932.

— As there were no official awards, an audience poll was taken — best director was Soviet Nikolai Ekk for “Putyovka v Zhizn”, while the best film was Rene Clair’s “A nous la liberte”.

— The second festival, held in August 1934, included the first competition. Nineteen countries took part with over 300 accredited journalists. The “Coppa Mussolini” was introduced for best foreign film and best Italian film.

— In 1936 an international jury was nominated for the first time and in 1937 the new Palazzo del Cinema was inaugurated. With the exception of the years 1940 to 1948, it has hosted the Festival ever since.

* WAR:

— The Festival was held three times during World War Two, from 1940 to 1942, but not counted in the total number of festivals. Participation was limited to member countries or sympathisers in the Alliance. A short festival was held in 1946.

* ROAD TO EXPANSION:

— The 1947 Festival was held at the Ducal Palace, with a record audience of 90,000. It saw the return of the Soviet Union and the new “popular democracies” including Czechoslovakia, which won first prize for Sirena by Karel Stekly.

— During the 50s, the Festival experienced a period of international expansion, with the affirmation of new types of film including Japanese and Indian.

— Japanese cinema has become well known in the West largely thanks to the Golden Lion awarded to Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” in 1951, and successively through the Silver Lions won by “Ugetsu Monogatari” (1953) and “Sansho Dayu” (1954) by Kenji Mizoguchi.

RECENT FESTIVALS:

— Over the years Venice helped establish New German Cinema throughout the world. Filmmakers such as Wim Wenders and Margarethe Von Trotta (the first woman to win the Golden Lion) received the highest recognition at the Festival.

— In 2006, retrospective sections were dedicated to the Secret History of Russian Cinema and to Joaquim Pedro de Andrade. David Lynch was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, and Jia Zhangke’s “Still Life” won the Golden Lion for Best Film.

Sources: Reuters/www.labiennale.org

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