The inaugural Vienna International Film Festival took place in 1960 as the First Vienna Film Week (Erste Wiener Filmwoche). It was organized by the Austrian Film Journalist Union. The program of the first festival featured 18 Austrian and international films. Two years later, the festival gained its current name. Although “Viennale” sounds similar to “biennale”, Vienna’s main film festival is held every year and not every other year. Over the years, it has grown to become one of the largest film festivals in Europe. Its attendance rate is about 90,000 every year.
Viennale’s main program features a carefully picked selection of new films from Austria and all over the world. Some of them are national and international premieres. However, the festival doesn’t focus solely on new feature films in various genres. Particular attention is paid to documentary films, international short films, crossover works and experimental cinema. Every year, the Vienna International Film Festival screens about 300 films of every genre and structural form imaginable, offering the best examples of contemporary cinema from all over the globe.
The Viennale is not a competitive festival in the sense that it does not have an official competition. However, several prizes are awarded during the festival. For example, the FIPRESCI Prize is bestowed by the International Federation of Film Critics. International film critics reward what they see as enterprising filmmaking. The Vienna Film Prize is awarded by the City of Vienna, and another special prize is awarded by the readers of the Austrian newspaper Der Standard.
Along with the screenings of films from the main program, the Vienna International Film Festival offers a variety of retrospectives (for example, its acclaimed historical retrospective organized in collaboration with the Austrian film museum), homages and tributes to outstanding filmmakers, special events and parties, interviews and meetings with special guests, audience discussions and more. The Viennale is a festival which combines a high-quality program with a relaxed urban atmosphere.
Photo by Viennale/Alexander Tuma