The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. It takes place every year in August or September and is held on the island of Lido, a sandbar located close to the main part of the Italian city of Venice. Films are screened at one of four venues. During odd-numbered years, the Venice Film Festival is part of a larger art festival known as the Venice Biennale. The festival lasts for eleven days and is the site of major movie premieres from around the planet, including Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
The top prize, awarded to the festival’s best film, is the Golden Lion, in honor of the animal which symbolizes Venice. Recent winners have come from many different places, including the Israeli film Lebanon, the American films The Wrestler and Brokeback Mountain, the Chinese films Still Life and Lust, Caution, and the British film Vera Drake. A second Golden Lion is given to an individual in recognition of lifetime achievement in cinema. Another major award is the Volpi Cup, one of which is presented to the best actor and another to the best actress of the festival. There are also Silver Lion awards sometimes given out in other categories, such as best direction, as well as special jury prizes for films that do not win the Golden Lion but are still considered worthy of honor.
The first Venice Film Festival was organized in 1932 by Giuseppe Volpi, an Italian businessman and politician. For a time it was the undisputed queen of international film festivals, but others, such as Cannes and Toronto, have arisen to challenge it. Nonetheless, the quality of Venice’s festival, as well as its status as the longest-running event of its kind, ensures that it remains one of the most important events in world cinema.