Venice became home to the world’s first annual international film festival in 1932, but from the outset it was an outlet for Fascist and Nazi propaganda, with Hitler and Mussolini’s regimes determining the festival winners and sharing the prizes out between themselves.
Things came to a head in 1938 when Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” and Goffredo Alessandrini’s “Luciano Serra, Pilot” jointly won the main prize, the Coppa Mussolini. Appalled, diplomat Philippe Erlanger returned home and proposed to the Minister of Fine Arts that an alternative festival be held in France.
However, at the opening night of the Festival de Cannes on 1st September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and the festival was brought to a close after screening RKO’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Two days later, Great Britain and France declared war against Germany.
In 1946, the Festival de Cannes was revived to entice tourists back to the French Riviera, and its programme included Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” and David Lean’s “Brief Encounter”. Although it was cancelled in 1948 and 1950 due to economic reasons, it has since gone from strength to strength and celebrates its 71st edition this year.