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Venice International Film Festival

Hotel Excelsior, Lido di Venezia

ABOVE: Jurors stay at the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido di Venezia, near the festival hall.

Since its founding in 1932, the Venice International Film Festival has brought movie stars, moguls, and the media to the Lido di Venezia, the narrow resort island that separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. It may play second fiddle to Cannes as a venue for dealmakers, but it's even more important as a launchpad for Europe's fall movie season.

Over the decades, the Venice festival has changed focus several times. It had a strong Hollywood connection in the 1930s, then gradually shifted its attention to European and art films.

In recent years, the festival has returned to the mainstream with screenings of commercial movies like Waterworld, Crimson Tide, Michael Collins, and Sleepers--not to mention a special award to Rocky's Sylvester Stallone.

Roger Ebert once described the Venice festival as "Cannes without the hassle," and he could have added that the beach is better, too.

Each year's festival also has non-competitive sections called "Mezzogiorno" and "Mezzanotte" that highlight 10 films each. In addition, the festival has a competition for short films, a workshop devoted to leading-edge audiovisual projects, and special awards for distinguished film artists. Premiere screenings at the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido are normally followed by showings in Venice's Campo San Polo in Venice one night later.

If you're in Venice during the festival and want to catch a glimpse of the action, take any vaporetto or car ferry that goes to the Lido. (In summer, you can catch a boat from Venice to the Casino Municipale, next to the Palazzo del Cinema; alternatively, you can take the No. 1 vaporetto or another boat to the main Lido-S. Maria Elisabetta stop and either walk to the festival area or take the No. 11 autobus.)

Finally, if you're sensible enough to avoid Venice's heat and crowds at the end of summer, when the festival takes place, you can get a glimpse of the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia at home by watching Henry Jaglom's 1992 film, Venice/Venice, in video.

Related Web site

Venice International Film Festival
The annual Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica takes place in late August and early September.