film festival tourism


The Venice International Film Festival

Venice's Golden Lion

Why Go: A-list premieres screened  in the storied setting of Venice’s Lido.

Festival Description: The oldest and, after Cannes, the most prestigious of the international film festivals, Venice has had its ups and downs over the years but continues as a favored launching pad for the most prestigious international productions. In 2012, as Italy struggled with economic woes, Marco Muller, widely recognized as having revitalized the event during his eight-year tenure, was forced out. He was replaced by festival vet Alberto Barbara, who oversaw a drastically scaled back program.


Timing: Ten days at the end of August/beginning of September.

Programming: A selection of the cream of new international cinema coupled with a smattering of vintage titles, most newly restored. Glamorous Hollywood premieres are also part of the mix.

George Clooney on the red carpet at Venice

Venues: In 2012 the festival  was in the process of remodeling its badly deteriorating  infrastructure. Until this process is completed, fest-goers must tolerate inconveniences like decrepit elevators, poor sightlines and port-a-potties. The event’s main theater, the Sala Grande, has been renovated; the other large venues are  the Sala Darsena, a warehouse-like space; and the PalaBiennale, a tent. All of the venues are housed in the same compound next to the Lido Casino vaporetto stop, except for the Pala Biennale, which is a few blocks away.

Inside the Sala Grande

lines outside the Sala Darsena

inside the PalaBiennale

Audience: Press and industry attendees mingle in many screenings with other accredited guests such as students and academics as well as the general public.

Surroundings: You are in Venice, the most beautiful city in the world.


Lodging: Will be expensive. In the past, I have stayed at the Best Western Hotel Villa Mabapa on the Lido, which I found pleasant and comfortable. It is a short, easy bus ride to the festival and close to the main Lido vaporetto stop. Riviera S. Nicolò 16 – 30126 – Venezia Lido (VE) – GPS: lat. 45.422691 – long. 12.376677 Phone: 041 5260590 – Fax: 041 5269441 E-mail: Website:

Villa Mabapa

Getting Around: The vaporettos (water buses) are slow, and many do not run at night. Water taxis are exorbitantly expensive.  If you can afford it, try to stay on the Lido, where the festival takes place, or in Venice proper near Piazza San Marco. The Lido is well served by regular buses and taxis.  A special vaporetto runs during the festival from Lido Casino, where the films are screened, directly to San Marco (San Zaccharia stop) and from thence (at night) to the train and bus stations on the other side of Venice.

The Festival Year by Year


Best Films I Saw

  • American Dreams: Lost and Found. James Benning’s 1984 collage of 1970s American culture mashes together entries from the diaries of would-be presidential assassin Arthur Bremer, memorabilia of baseball legend Hank Aaron and snippets of top 40 and country-and-western hits of the era. The festival screened a print newly restored by the Austrian Filmmuseum.

American Dreams: Lost and Found

  • Linhas De Wellington. Valeria Sarmiento completed a project begun by her late husband Raul Ruiz, and the result is a majestic, sweeping historical epic marred only by a few problems with casting.  Supported by Carlos Saboga’s thoughtful screenplay, Sarmiento chronicles Napoleon’s failed campaign to conquer Portugal while offering a meditation on art’s relation to history. Originally a TV miniseries, it was edited down for its showing at Venice.

John Malkovich in Linhas de Wellington

Unexpected Pleasures:

  • The palpable squelches, groans, crunches, and snaps in the latest installment of Takashi Kitano’s  gangster saga, Outrage Beyond, all rendered with excruciating clarity through the Darsena’s state-of-the-art audio system.

Outrage Beyond

  • James Franco’s gold teeth in Spring Breakers.

James Franco in Spring Breakers

  • Nermina Lukac’s affecting turn as a young Muslim immigrant seeking work in Sweden in Eat Sleep Die.

Eat Sleep Die

  • Tobias Lindholm passing over action sequences in favor of showing their effects on the people involved in his Norwegian maritime drama A Hijacking.

A Hijacking

  • The awesome volcanic eruption and tuna fishing sequence in the newly restored Stromboli.


  • The fest’s decision to highlight the work of women filmmakers, beginning with the event’s opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist, directed by Mira Nair, and continuing with a panel of women discussing moviemakers. Women helmed a total of 21 of the 52 films screened.

Fest topper Alberto Barbera with a group of women filmmakers

Review of 2012 Venice Festival.

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