The greatest moments in the history of the Venice Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival is the oldest in the world and remains one of the most prestigious. Naturally, some of the greatest moments in film and fashion happened under his reign.
Founded in 1932, it aimed to re-establish Italy as a world leader in cinema after World War I, which saw the country overtaken by the United States in terms of output and production. Since then, a purpose-built event space has been created (the Palazzo del Cinema) and films that have become enduring classics have premiered, such as Frankenstein and It happened one night.
The festival has also seen major cultural moments happen both on its red carpet from a fashion perspective and within the festival. Some of those moments were good, others more controversial. In any case, they will remain etched in our memories. Below, find the most important of the 79-year history of the Venice Film Festival.
1. The Mussolini Prizes, 1930s
Because fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was in power in the 1930s and early 1940s, the highest honor for Best Italian Film and Best Foreign Film during this period was the Copa Mussolini, or Mussolini Cup. In general, there was a lot of controversy in the period before World War II – Nazi propaganda film Heimkehr won a prize, and in 1940 the festival was renamed the Italian-German Film Festival.
The Copa Mussolini was abolished in 1943 when Mussolini was removed from office, and by the time the festival returned after the war in 1946 it had been renamed the Venice Film Festival.
2. Diana Dors wears a mink bikini, 1955
Fashion has always gone hand in hand with the Venice Film Festival, and there have been some iconic sartorial moments over the years. One of those moments has to be British actress Diana Dors making waves in a mink bikini. Was this the origin of a moment of “breaking the internet”, before the internet existed? Maybe.
3. Brigitte Bardot and the paparazzi, 1958
Celebrities making statements have been a given since the 1950s. Here, Brigitte Bardot – in the midst of her rise to fame – had a festival-stealing moment posing in the grass for a mass of paparazzi. One of the biggest movie stars of her time, she was considered a major sex symbol and was known for roles that played into her sexuality. The same year this photo was taken, Bardot starred in In case of adversity, one of the most popular films of the year in France.
4. Controversial appearance by director Lars von Trier, 2014
He may be a critical darling of the film festival scene, but Danish director Lars von Trier is also one of the industry’s most controversial figures. After making jokes about how he “sympathizes” with Hitler, saying “I understand Hitler, but I think he did bad things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker… I think I understand the man” at Cannes Film Festival in 2011, von Trier declined to do interviews for years, but made an “appearance” at the Venice Film Festival in 2014 via video.
Again he courted controversy – when asked what he learned about female sexuality while filming Nymphomaniac, he replied “Did I learn anything about women? No. I know everything about women.
5. Kate Hudson makes Chanel maternity clothes, 2003
One of the most memorable fashion moments at the Venice Film Festival was undoubtedly Kate Hudson’s Chanel look in 2003. She made an appearance on the red carpet for her role in The divorce, and pregnant with her first child, Ryder. Instead of covering up the bump, Hudson opted to show it off, donning a two-piece Chanel ensemble that will go down in history.
6. Nomination of Roman Polanski, 2019
At the height of #MeToo accounts, the decision to include Roman Polanski’s film An officer and a spy sparked a lot of outrage, even among the Venice Film Festival jury itself. Polanski had just been charged with historic sexual assault, which also drew attention to his 1978 conviction for the rape of a then 13-year-old girl. Defending his decision, director of the festival at the time Alberto Barbera “Art history is full of artists who committed crimes but we continued to admire their artwork and the same goes for Polanski. He is, in my opinion, one of the last masters of European cinema. We can’t wait 200 years to decide if his films are great or easy to forget, aesthetic judgment must be made immediately.
7. Zendaya in Balmain wet look, 2021
Zendaya established herself as one of Gen Z’s biggest fashion stars during the Dune press tour, and her Balmain dress (paired with an emerald and 93-karat gold Bulgari necklace) easily topped the list of the best dressed for the Venice Film Festival 2021.
The nude leather dress clung to the actress as if it had come straight out of the ocean, her longtime stylist Law Roach drawing inspiration from 19th-century carvings. Balmain used a model of Zendaya’s bust to create the look.
8. A serious lack of female directors, 2019
The 2019 Venice Film Festival was fraught with difficulties when it was pointed out that of the 21 films in competition that year, only two were directed by women.
This marked a turning point for the festival – the 2020 lineup saw 44% of films led by female directors, with Chloe Zhao winning the Golden Lion for nomadlandbecoming one of only five women to have won the prestigious award since the festival’s inception.
However, this year only 23% of the competition titles are led by women, proving that the festival still has some way to go when it comes to representation.
9. Lady Gaga in Valentino, 2018
It was one of the most anticipated films of the year, so it was only natural that Lady Gaga chose a breathtaking dress to walk the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival for A star is born.
Valentino’s feathered pink couture piece was originally worn by Kaia Gerber on the runway in July of that year, and while her looks stole the red carpet, it’s Gaga’s electric chemistry and of her co-star Bradley Cooper who had everyone talking. They ended up brushing off the rumors during their entire press tour for the film.
The 2022 Venice Film Festival begins on August 31.