Cinema is a magical medium that whisks us to another realm. Watching world-premieres with the stars themselves at the Sala Grande on the Lido is an intoxicating experience, with celebrities fresh from the red carpet in the audience, and the ethereal city of Venice as the backdrop.
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This year, a lucky few had the chance to screen “A Star is Born” together with first-time actor Lady Gaga and first-time director Bradley Cooper in the theatre when it was struck by lightning during a violent summer storm. Talk about electricity! There was clear chemistry between the two during the press conference earlier in the day. Cooper said, “...we both came from East Coast Italian-American families. So we had a real synchronicity on that level from our upbringing.”
Venice is a launchpad for Oscar-winning films, a place where stars truly are born. Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” starring Ryan Gosling as moon-walker Neil Armstrong kicked off this year’s festival. In 2016, Chazelle’s “La La Land” was the opener, which went on to receive 14 Oscar nominations, winning six, including Best Director, making him the youngest to win the category. The president of this year’s jury is two-time Academy Award winning director and screenwriter Giullermo del Toro, whose “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture after winning last year’s Golden Lion, Venice’s top award. A feisty Jennifer Lawrence popped up in Venice in 2008 just weeks after her 18th birthday, winning the emerging artist Marcello Mastroianni Prize for her performance in the world premiere of Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain.” That same year, Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” won the Golden Lion. The list goes on and on.
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The Venice Film Festival is the grande dame of all film festivals. Founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata in 1932, the first edition took place on the terrace of the majestic Hotel Excelsior, a venue that remains a hub of activity today. Sipping cocktails overlooking the Adriatic Sea with the bustle of movie people in the background is a favourite pastime for film buffs from all over the world.
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Since 2018 is the 75th edition of the festival, it would seem that the numbers don’t add up. The festival wasn’t held during the 12 missing years for various reasons, one of which was that in 1946 the Palazzo del Cinema had been requisitioned by the Allies.
Flipping that concept on its head, La Biennale is on a mission to create a “Citadel of Cinema,” renovating and upgrading the historic spaces on the Lido. After years of being closed, today the ground floor of the beloved Hotel des Bains invites visitors to explore 86 years of the festival with an extensive exhibition of photos from the archives that capture a sense of history.
The Venice Film Festival has evolved into an intimate village with grassy knolls and eateries sprinkled throughout the grounds, and state-of-the-art theatres pulsing with soundtracks. With films screening in original languages from all over the globe, and the new cutting-edge Virtual Reality competition, it is a chance to grab a front-row seat and watch stars be born.
For more ideas on how to best experience Venice, visit our destination page.