The inaugural product of any category tends to be unique in its motivations as compared to everything else that follows. Even in instances where the original is no longer the best or most famous, an exploration on the original typically does uncover much about the anthropological needs a product category serve, and in many cases, explains the trajectory of that category thereafter.
We saw an example of this in our recent exploration on Coney Island for instance, where this world’s original theme park fascinated people due to its demonstrations of cutting edge technologies, and how theme parks today are far from being associated with such innovations anymore.
To trace the roots of the Venice Film Festival, we must go back to as early as 1895. Unlike the standalone productions of Tribeca and Cannes, the Venice Film Festival is part of a mega event production called the La Biennale di Venezia, a bi-annual exhibition in Venice. This bi-annual consists of the Film Festival, the Theater Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music, Festival of Contemporary Dance, the Art Exhibition, the Architecture Exhibition, and a Kid’s Carnival.
The first production of the Venice Biennial took place in 1895, with the original event being just the Art Exhibition. The production became an enormous success, drawing over 200,000 people from all over Europe. At the turn of the 20th Century, this event brand made Venice a capital of sorts of European fine arts, showcasing artists from all over Europe like Austria’s Gustav Klimt, France’s Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Spain’s Pablo Picasso, and so forth.
The Venice Film Festival was inaugurated into this Biennial in 1932. From a political perspective, this was the time in history when Mussolini was at the height of his Fascist rule over the country, and the expansion of the Biennial to include exhibitions of additional art forms was very much driven by the nationalism of this Italian government. From an artistic perspective, feature films were just beginning to reach its so called “Golden Age”, as technological innovations in sound recording enabled moviemakers to create storylines of every-increasing complexity. The first Venice Film Festival screened movies from all the major movie production countries at the time, including Hollywood’s Jekyll & Hyde.
Today, the Venice Film Festival is run in similar fashion to all the other film festivals, serving up award categories galore and a platform for the world’s top socialites to see and be seen. The importance of the Venice Film Festival might arguably be considered overshadowed by the Cannes, but the fact is the two festivals are very different. The Cannes being a standalone event, is much more exclusive with its invitations, and is attended each year by only about 30,000 people (hey, given how many people watch movies in the world, that’s pretty exclusive). The Venice being a part of a much larger bi-annual festival, draws an overall attendance of more than 10x as much as Cannes, but taking part in the Film Festival is only on the agendas of a portion of this overall crowd. At the end of the day though, both events are solidly amongst the most important brands in the world’s arts and cultures.
See you at the next exploration!