La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Paolo Baratta

President of the Biennale di Venezia

75th edition

This year the Venice Film Festival is being staged for the 75th time, or at least this is the numbering which has been officially adopted. As is well known, the Festival was held for the first time in 1932. Counting the years between that date and this one we come up with a figure of 87. The difference (twelve) stems primarily from the fact that in some years there was no Festival (six in all). This happened in the second year when the intention was still to stage it biennially, like the Art Exhibition out of which it sprang, and then again in the war years (three) and in another two years in more recent times (1973 and 1978) for various reasons. Of the other six missing years, three have been declared void for damnatio memoriae (the Festivals of 1940, 1941 and 1942). Two belong to the period of Carlo Ripa di Meana’s presidency, when the programs of La Biennale (1974 and 1977) were devoted to Chile and to “dissent” respectively. I do not at the moment have an adequate explanation for the last of the twelve missing years. In 1947 in fact, when the series of Festivals was renumbered in order to erase from memory the 8th, 9th and 10th, the ones held in the three years from 1940 to 1942, the number eight, which had been that of the Festival in 1940, was reassigned to that of 1947. This led to the “erasure” of the Festival held in 1946 too, by assigning it the more humble name of a manifestazione or event rather than a mostra or exhibition, even though it represented an important moment in the life of La Biennale and the Festival. That year it was organised in a great hurry, in Venice and not at the Lido, and held on requisitioned premises, for which authorisation had to be obtained from the military representatives of the occupying powers. It was held between the months of August and September and presented a significant number of Italian and foreign films notwithstanding the postwar climate (including Paisà and Les Enfants du Paradis). It was also the year in which, with the launch of the Cannes Film Festival, diplomatic channels were used to reach an agreement over the future dates of the two events.

The long history

We could not let the occasion slip without celebrating the long history of the Festival, and we came up with an initiative that involved putting together an exhibition of documents, chiefly of a photographic nature, from our archives, an undertaking carried out by the ASAC and curated by Alberto Barbera, and accompanying it with a book. While loath to accept the idea that an institution is in a position to write its own history, we have taken the opportunity to send a message to historians and enthusiasts. We have realised in fact that little has been done in the way of in-depth, and still less comprehensive, studies of the Festival’s history, and that the only available publication devoted to it is still the account written by the event’s gifted official Flavia Paulon, who in 1971 wrote the slim volume entitled La dogaressa contestata.
Peter Cowie, a highly regarded and well-known journalist who for years has been a regular visitor to the Festival, accepted the challenge of compiling a volume to be published by La Biennale. Composed on the basis of archive materials and interviews, it offers an introduction to the history of the Festival, out of which has emerged a series of stimuli, ideas, discoveries and considerations. The newly established ASAC College that goes by the name of “Scrivere in residenza” has already taken up these stimuli, and the young writers in residence will be carrying out research into the years “missing” from the list of 75.
Where to hold the exhibition of photographs? For all these years and with monotonous frequency we have been lamenting the closure of the Hotel des Bains, a real blow to the Festival.
We have turned our lament into an initiative, made possible by courtesy of the new owners. On the ground floor of the historic hotel, much loved by the world of the cinema, which acknowledges it as one of its favorite “locations,” La Biennale will be carrying out interventions and making preparations that will allow it to be used as a venue for the exhibition. Thus we are continuing in the spirit that has guided us since 2010 in our effort to renew and upgrade the Festival’s historic spaces, which has led to the complete renovation of the “citadel of cinema” at the Lido, followed by the establishment of a bridgehead on the Lazzaretto Vecchio and now this “symbolic” entry into the Hotel des Bains.

More activities

Activity in the Cinema Section of La Biennale has in the meantime been enriched by the now well-known Biennale College Cinema, which has added to its program a segment devoted to Italian filmmakers. The College’s activity has been extended this year to embrace the world of Virtual Reality, with a program expressly dedicated to the medium.
The Festival presents a profusion of works by great auteurs, and is marked by a further new opening up to genres, as part of its commitment to tracing works of high quality and vitality without preconceived classifications.
The selection reflects a great faith in the movie as a medium and in its capacity to tackle themes of the present, themes that history and the human condition offer for our consideration. The Festival, in assembling and selecting films for its complex and coherent program, reveals itself to be yet again an essential means of promoting this irreplaceable contribution of the cinematic art to our awareness and culture.

Thanks

We would like to thank the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities for its contribution not only to the Film Festival but also to the fitting out of the Lazzaretto Vecchio, which has also received a contribution from the Public Works Department, the Polo Museale Veneziano and the Soprintendenza di Venezia. We are also grateful to the regional government of the Veneto and the municipality of Venice, in particular for having drawn up the plans for the definitive refurbishment of the Casino building. Our thanks also go to our sponsors in particular Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lexus and Campari, to the Rai, our media partner, to the whole of the press and to all those who have worked with La Biennale di Venezia on the staging of the Festival.

Biennale Cinema
Biennale Cinema