A study of the Venice Film Festival as a Product of Mussolini’s Italy

The Exposizione d’Arte Cinematografica was introduced as an addition to the Venice Biennale in 1932 by Italian Prime Minister and Leader of the Italian Fascist Party Benito Mussolini and his authoritarian regime. The Venice Film festival was used mainly by the fascist government to expedite the globalization of Italian films and to promote nationalism within an international setting.  Mussolini came into power in 1922 and officially proclaimed himself “Il Duce” in 1925, thus beginning his reign as dictator[1].  With control over media outlets, Mussolini controlled how the public viewed his leadership and policies because control over the media meant control over the people.  Cinema was perhaps the most influential artistic medium that Mussolini and his regime used in promoting fascism, Mussolini himself, and Italy as a powerful nation.  Therefore, the emergence of an international film festival during such a tumultuous time in Italian history begs the question: Why?  The tumultuous period in Italy from around 1920 to around 1950 would seem an unlikely time for a film festival to succeed, however, with government sponsorship and public support, the festival was able to prosper.  While the history of Italian cinema begins almost a half-century before the first cinematic exposition of the Biennale, it is with the Venice Film Festival that the Italian film industry gained international recognition and prestige.  Philip Rylands, an American artist, said in regards to the Biennale, “Nationalism is one of the things that gives the Biennale tension and longevity.”[2]


[1] Wiskermann, Elizabeth, Fascism in Italy: Its Development and Influence, 1969. p13-17

[2] Thorton, Seven Days in the Art World, 235