In the 1970’s the competition, along with all its related awards, was abolished. The editions occurring from 1969 to 1979 are therefore non-competitive. The first two years are under the direction of Ernesto Laura, which is then passed to Gian Luigi Rondi and thereafter to Giacomo Gambetti. As partial compensation for the missing awards, new sessions are created, and more screenings are added to increase the number of films presented at the festival.
An important new innovation is introduced in 1971, the Golden Lion for Career Achievement, which was awarded to two film greats: the American director John Ford, who had the most screenings at the festival, and, the following year, Charlie Chaplin, for his complete and multifaceted film legacy. 1971 is also remembered for the first screening of Chinese documentary: Hung sik laung dje ching (Red Detachment of Women).
In 1972 in stark contrast to the "Official" festival organized by the Venice Biennial, a parallel event is organized. The Days of Italian Film is under the aegis of the ANAC (Associazione Nazionale Autori Cinematografici – National Association of Theater Owners) and the AACI (Associazione Autori Cinematografici Italiani – Association of Italian Film Producers), whose members bitterly disagree with the new direction of the festival.
The following year, the acting director, Gian Luigi Rondi, is forced to resign. With the charter of the Biennial still firmly anchored in the legislature, unchanged since the fascist period, all events tied to the organization are suspended, including the festival. Although the two associations of Italian directors take advantage of the cancellation and run with the newly organized Days of Italian Film, they do not succeed in supplanting the official festival.
Direction is then passed to Giacomo Gambetti, who maintains the festival from 1974 to 1976 and takes it in a new direction, trying to change the festival’s image. He initiates tributes, retrospectives, conferences, and proposals for new films, opting to move screenings to the heart of the city.
In 1977, as part of the Biennial, the festival is dedicated solely to East European film, integrated into the Biennial’s project on "cultural dissent". The following year (1978) the festival is not held yet again.
In spite of the protests and the dark shadow cast across much of the festival, and the Biennial as well, the editions are characterized by works that show strong evidence of a very determined and long-awaited renewal of film in the 1970’s. There are memorable films like The Devils by Ken Russel and Sunday, Bloody Sunday by John Schlesinger, or Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte (Beware of a Holy Whore), another scandalous film, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, all three in 1971, McCabe & Mrs. Miller by Robert Altman, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick) by Wim Wenders, both in 1972, then Badlands by Terrence Malick; three years later, in 1976 there is Novecento (1900) by Bernardo Bertolucci and La dernière femme (The Last Woman) by Marco Ferreri.
Among all these, one film stands out, presented to the public in the lagoon city in 1972, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, Clockwork Orange, with protagonist Malcolm McDowell, a film that, without fail, creates a lot of discussion and debate.
The long-awaited rebirth everyone has hoped for comes in 1979, thanks to a new director. Carlo Lizzani decides to restore the image and value the festival has lost over the last decade. The 1979 edition lays the foundation for the restoration of international prestige, and its effects will impact everyone in the following decade. With his invaluable experience as director, Lizzani changes the name, calling the review simply International Film Festival, rather than International Festival of Film Arts, a designation that it still carries today.
In an attempt to create a more modern image of the festival, the neo-director creates a committee of experts to assist in selecting the works and to give still more a turn at the festival. There is a collaboration of well-known figures of importance, not only in Italian culture, but also of the era, such as Alberto Moravia, Roberto Escobar, Giovanni Grazzini, Enzo Scotto Lavina and Paolo Valmarana. Lizzani also calls on and develops a close and extremely successful alliance with critic and screenwriter Enzo Ungari.
The most interesting initiative brings together numerous well-known stars and directors for a discussion entitled "The 1980’s of Film", encouraging critical discussion about film and new emerging technologies taking center stage thanks to Star Wars (1977) by George Lucas (not screened in Venice), which were of key importance during that phase of transition in world-wide film and have become more and more important since then.