The 76th Venice Film Festival is rapidly approaching, running August 28 through September 7. It will be the first stop for industry insiders, creatives and journalists as the festival season begin in Italy and continue through the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. Oscar contenders will start emerging, especially as each festival hands out their top prizes at the end of the festivities.
In Venice, the Golden Lion is awarded to what a selected jury has deemed the best movie playing in competition. Recent winners include “Roma” and “The Shape of Water,” which went on to find success with Oscar. Of the two, “The Shape of Water” earned Best Picture at the Academy Awards following its bow in Venice.
The rotational Venice jury has chosen an eclectic selection of movies, some more mainstream and accessible than others. Before familiar titles like “Roma” and “The Shape of Water” won, lesser-known movies like “The Woman Who Left,” “From Afar,” “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” and “Sacro GRA” claimed the Golden Lion. A few of these recent titles may sound unfamiliar to some but found their champions with arthouse audiences.
Like any festival, filmmakers long to have their films screen at these venues – particularly in competition – in the hopes of building word of mouth. For example, “The Hurt Locker” began its festival run in 2008 at the 65th Venice Film Festival. The movie would go on to play multiple festivals along the 2008 circuit before its theatrical release in 2009. “The Hurt Locker’s” momentum only grew, which led to the film winning six Oscars, including Best Picture and a historic Best Director win for Kathryn Bigelow.
Venice’s history is expansive. They give a home to foreign films, Oscar contenders and mainstream movies which typically play out of competition. In the year “Brokeback Mountain” won the Golden Lion and became an Oscar frontrunner, the festival also screened “Elizabethtown,” “The Descent,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Four Brothers.” It’s likely, in some capacity, one of your favorite movies or filmmakers have screened a film in Italy.