The Venice Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival was founded in 1932 as part of the larger Venice Biennale, one of the world’s largest art exhibitions. Under the umbrella of the Venice Biennale are separate exhibitions for international art, architecture, dance, music, theatre, and cinema. Events sponsored by Venice Biennale include, the International Art Exhibit, the International Architecture Exhibition, the International Festival of Contemporary Dance, the International Festival of Contemporary Music, the International Theatre Festival, and its most famous exhibition International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale, commonly referred to as the Venice Film Festival.

The Venice Film Festival is held annually in late August and early September on the island of the Lido in Venice Lagoon. In a normal year, the attendance tops 100,000. It is estimated that half of the attendees are film professionals from various fields within the world of cinema.

Thousands of entries are whittled down by the judges to be presented on the premier screens of this international event. Its prizes are prizes awarded by the juries composed of industry professionals. Along with Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals, winners of the Venice Film Festival are often thought to be on the fast track to the Oscars.

The Venice Film Festival has been dominated by American films since its inception. The first film screened at the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the American made Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed and produced by Rouben Mamoulian for Paramount Pictures. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde won Audience Referendum at the first-ever Venice Film Festival for Most Favorite Actor, Fredric March along with Most Original Fantasy Story, Rouben Mamoulian. At the 1932 Academy Awards, Fredric March shared the Oscar with Wallace Beery for The Champ in a tie for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

A New First for the Venice Film Festival

The 2020 Venice Film Festival will add a new first to its historical run as the first major industry event to be held in the COVID-19 Pandemic Era. Owing to the shutdown of major motion picture studios around the world caused by the pandemic, American Films did not dominate the screens of the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

There were still plenty of entries to fill the 66 screens of the two-week 2020 Venice Film Festival which ran from September 2 – 12, 2020. Although the coronavirus pandemic has hit the film industry hard shutting down sets around the world, it may have provided unforeseen opportunities for some filmmakers at the Venice Film Festival. More women and international filmmakers were featured on the coveted screens of the Venice Film Festival than in recent years.

Best Film of the Venice Film Festival 2020

The Golden Lion Award for Best Film of 2020 went to Nomadland directed by Chloe Zhao. It is the first film directed by a woman to capture the Venice Film Festival top prize since 2010 when Sofia Coppola took it home for her film, Somewhere. Nomadland, an American Drama distributed by Searchlight Pictures was simultaneously entered at the Venice, Telluride, and Toronto festivals. It has an official release date of December 4, 2020.

Nomadland is a screen adaptation of a 2017 non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.

Along with directing the film Chloé Zhao, also wrote, edited, and co-produced this stark look at America’s current nomads. The film stars Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells along with a cast that leans heavily on actual “nomads”, giving this film a unique authenticity.

The competition jury that awarded Nomadland the Golden Lion was headed by Cate Blanchett. It included actors Matt Dillon and Ludivine Sagnier, writer-directors Veronika Franz, Joanna Hogg, and Christian Petzold, and writer Nicola Lagioia.

The second-place award went to Mexican director Michel Franco for his film Nuevo Orden (New Order).  This Spanish language film stars Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica Del Carmen, Fernando Cuautla, Darío Yazbek Bernal, and Eligio Meléndez. It is summarized as a Mexican French art dystopian thriller. It was written, directed, produced, and edited by Michel Franco. Nuevo Orden (New Order) premiered at Venice and Toronto simultaneously.

The Winners List for the 2020 Venice Film Festival

Here is a full list of winners at Venice Film Festival 2020:

  • GOLDEN LION: Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
  • SILVER LION – GRAND JURY PRIZE: New Order, Michel Franco
  • SILVER LION – AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wife of a Spy
  • SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Dear Comrades! Andrei Konchalovsky
  • AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY: Chaitanya Tamhane, The Disciple
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actress: Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actor: Pierfrancesco Favino, Padrenostro
  • MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD for Best Young Actor or Actress: Rouhollah Zamani, Sun Children
  • ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST FILM: The Wasteland, Ahmad Bahrami
  • SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE: Listen, Ana Rocha de Sousa
  • ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY: Pietro Castellitto, I Predatori
  • ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS: Khansa Batma, Zanka Contact
  • ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR: Yahya Mahayni, The Man Who Sold His Skin
  • ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FILM: Entre Tu Y Milagros, Mariana Saffon
  • VENICE AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM: Listen, Ana Rocha de Sousa
  • GRAND JURY PRIZE FOR BEST VR IMMERSIVE WORK: The Hangman at Home, Michelle, and Uri Kranot
  • BEST VR IMMERSIVE USER EXPERIENCE: Finding Pandora X, Kiira Benzing
  • BEST VR IMMERSIVE STORY: Killing A Superstar, Fan Fan

The 2020 Venice Film Festival Paves the Way

The 2020 Venice Film Festival, the first major cinematic event to be held in the age of the pandemic shows the world that filmmaking will comeback. While many other film festivals canceled or became totally virtual events, the 2020 Venice Film Festival planned and continued its history.

Strictly enforced social distancing, smaller crowds, and sanitary protocols were the order of the day. Tickets and reservations were done online avoiding unnecessary lines and crowds. Although seats were limited due to in theater social distancing, they were easier to obtain than normal because of the diminished attendance.

The 2020 Venice Film Festival paves the way for other events in cinema to continue by using their model of precautions and following health procedure guidance. For filmmakers, Venice should ignite their interests in returning to a new normal in production. Limiting cast and crew, sanitary protocols, testing, and following guidelines should allow production to begin again.

The adversity of the pandemic may be an opportunity for the independent filmmaker. As more film festivals go virtual and with big-name production companies still shuttered, submitting to, and being accepted to world film festivals in the COVID-19 era may be an independent filmmaker’s best opportunity to get screen time.

Written by Daniel Dachille

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