Between 2000 and 2001, there is a focus on strengthening the infrastructure, adding new structures next to the historical palaces, rebuilt or created especially for the festival, improving access to the various areas and increasing the total amount of space available to the festival to more than 13,000 square yards (11,000 square meters).
From 1999 to 2001 Alberto Barbera is the person responsible for the festival. In 2001 a new competitive category is created, "Cinema of the Present"; a new award, Golden Lion – the Lion of the Year. It is designed to give more attention to and provide more opportunities for first works and "fringe" films, films with a public niche, oriented to innovation and creative originality as well as promoting experimentation.
The festival continues to be a window for new talent wanting to attract international attention: in a sense they become a part of film history, for example, linking the name of Spike Jonze with Being John Malkovich, David Fincher with Fight Club, Kimberly Peirce with Boys Don’t Cry and Harmony Korine with Julien Donkey-Boy in 1999, Christopher Nolan with Memento and Tarsem Singh with The Cell the year after, Alejandro Amenábar with The Others, Antoine Fuqua with Training Day as well as Albert and Allen Hughes with From Hell in 2001.
The highlight event in the last few years is, without doubt, the 13th of September 1999 premiere, posthumous, of the last work by Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, a special event Lido of Venice will never forget with an enormous number of spectators, thanks to the exceptional presence of the film’s leading actor and actress, Nicole Kidman-Tom Cruise.
The year after, a remarkable event of great importance is the preview of the film-documentary by Martin Scorsese on Italian cinema, Il mio viaggio in Italia (My Travels in Italy).
Although some young Italian directors truly shine during these years, such as the exploits of Matteo Garrone with his debut film, L’imbalsamatore (The Embalmer), the Golden Lion Awards are given to works coming from film schools of the East: Yi ge dou bu neng shao (Not One Less) by the Chinese master Zhang Yimou, Dayereh (The Circle) by Jafar Panahi and finally Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair.
In 2002 the edition is organized quickly, in a few months time, this time under the direction of Moritz De Hadeln. Even with a short deadline, the festival succeeds in setting up an interesting program, a complete sampling of the current panorama of world-wide films, once again creating an effective mix of established and emerging talent.
Once again the surprise of the festival is the East, represented outstandingly by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano, already a winner in 1997 with Hana-bi (Fireworks),this time presenting a quite different film, Dolls, a more poetic and reflective work, and new-comer Chang-dong Lee, author of Oasis, first representative of Korean film, a rapidly expanding and very interesting domain in the world of cinema.
Presented as the special event in 2002 is a collaborative endeavor 11 settembre 2001 (September 11, 2001), a work paying homage to the victims of the attack and encouraging people to remember the tragedy. The film, divided into 11 endorsed episodes by Youssef Chahine, Amos Gitai, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Shohei Imamura, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Sean Penn, Danis Tanovic, attracts the attention of the mass media, on par with the Golden Lion winner, The Magdalene Sisters by Peter Mullan.
The 60th edition of the festival opens with the new film by Woody Allen, a great fan of the lagoon city, and his first visit to Lido of Venice for the preview of Anything Else.
Once again, the high point of this edition is the monumental presence of Hollywood stars on the runways of the festival, with the attendance of high-caliber stars like George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, together in Italy to introduce the latest work of the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, Intolerable Cruelty, Sean Penn, rewarded for Best Actor with the Volpi Cup, and Naomi Watts with 21 Grams by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Anthony Hopkins, protagonist in The Human Stain by Robert Benton, Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp with Once Upon a Time in Mexico by Robert Rodriguez, Bill Murray with Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola, Tim Robbins, director of and actor in Code 46, and finally Nicolas Cage, protagonist of Ridley Scott’s latest work, Matchstick Men.
Regarding films in competition, once again the festival faces controversy: the Golden Lion goes to The Return, by Russian director Andrej Zvjagintsev making his professional debut, who also receives the Lion of the Future, the award for best first work. The controversy comes as a result of Marco Bellocchio, author of Buongiorno, notte, a film about the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, which is ignored by the jury. The accusation, stemming from personal disappointment, points the finger at the current trend of not awarding Italian films (the last Golden Lion in 1998 to Gianni Amelio), and pushes to break loose from other foreign works. Those siding with the Italian director call at least for an ex aequo award due to the fact that current Italian films are very successful, such as the most recent work of Bernardo Bertolucci, with The Dreamers.
The selection of films presented once again opens a window onto a world-wide panorama, spanning from Europe to Asia, bringing many different cultures to the Mediterranean Sea, a historical meeting place for cultural exchange. Once again Takeshi Kitano, now one of the most famous directors since his success in 1997, takes home another statuette for a special award for direction.
In addition to Best Actor for his role in Monsieur Ibrahim e i fiori del Corano, one Golden Lion for Career Achievement is awarded to Omar Sharif and another one goes to producer Dino de Laurentiis, one of the greatest figures in Italian film.
The "Upstream" session, great innovation of the 2002 edition, presents films with particular vitality and originality, such as the work by Hiner Saleem, Vodka Lemon (winner of the San Marco Prize), Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation (Oscar winner for best original screenplay), John Sayles, Casa de los babys, Michael Schorr, Schultze Gets the Blues, Danish directors Lars Von Trier and Jørgen Leth, De Fem Benspænd (The Five Obstructions), and finally the young Sicilian directors Daniele Ciprì and Franco Maresco, Il ritorno di Cagliostro (The Return of Cagliostro).
In 2004 under the direction of Marco Müller, great lover and connoisseur of Eastern films, the festival gains greater attention. There are new innovations in the form of "Digital Film" sessions, dedicated to new digital technology. In 2004 and 2005 two retrospectives are dedicated to the "inside story of Italian film", a project created to revive films of the genre in the ’60s and ’70s (the first part, in 2004, was entitled "Italian Kings of the B’s"). In 2005 a retrospective is also dedicated to the "inside story of Eastern film".
The 2004 edition presents the Golden Lion for Career Achievement to directors Manoel de Oliveira and Stanley Donen, and awards the Golden Lion for Best Film to Vera Drake by Mike Leigh.
In 2005 prize for career achievement goes to the master of Japanese animated film Hayao Miyazaki and to Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli, while the prize for best film goes to Brokeback Mountain by Ang Lee.
For the first time since the postwar period, the 2006 edition features in competition only world premieres. Godmother of the review is Italian actress, Isabella Ferrari. The Golden Lion for lifetime achievement is awarded to American director, David Lynch. The Golden Lion seems destined for The Golden Door directed by Emanuele Crialese or to Bobby directed by Emilio Estevez. However, after careful consideration, reviewers of the jury, chaired by Catherine Deneuve, choose Still Life directed by Jia Zhangke; largely ignored by the public and critics, it is included in the review as a “film to surprise”. Crialese is awarded the Silver Lion Revelation, an award created ad hoc by request of the jury.
In 2007, Ang Lee is awarded his second Golden Lion for his film Lust, Caution while the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement goes to Tim Burton. On this 75th anniversary, the festival honors Bernardo Bertolucci with a special award.
In 2008, The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky wins and the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement goes to Ermanno Olmi. Remarkably The Hurt Locker, which premieres at the festival, is passed over by the jury but the following year wins six Oscars including Best Director and Best Film.
2009 brings important changes from an organizational point of view. The festival opens amidst construction on the new palazzo del cinema and the main entrance is now through the door by the dock. The PalaLido room (PalaGalileo) becomes known as “Sala Darsena”. In addition a new temporary structure is constructed in front of the casino steps and named, “Sala Perla 2”. A new competitive session, “Controcampo italiano” also is created. The jury, chaired by Ang Lee, winner of two Golden Lions over the past three years, gives the Golden Lion to Israeli film, Lebanon.