The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 78th Venice International Film Festival (September 1–11, 2021) has been awarded to the director, actor, and screenwriter Roberto Benigni.

The decision was made by the board of La Biennale di Venezia, which embraced the proposal of the Festival's Director, Alberto Barbera.

Roberto Benigni, in accepting, stated, “My heart is full of joy and gratitude. It is an immense honor to receive such an important recognition of my work from the Venice International Film Festival.”

Dario Franceschini, Minister of Culture, sends his congratulations: “I am glad that, in the year of Dante’s celebrations, Biennale chose to award the genius of an artist who, by means of his versatile talent and joyous impetuosity, has dedicated his life to culture and its dissemination, constantly animated by an extraordinary creativity. The Golden Lion is also a prize to an artist who managed masterfully to stage Dante’s masterpiece, making it closer to the younger generations.”

Francesco Cima, President of Anica – Producers, states: “My sincere congratulations to Roberto Benigni for such an important recognition. We must acknowledge such a versatile and eclectic talent who is able to make us laugh, move, and reflect. His talent has also been recognized outside of Italy as proved by his Oscar win in 1999.”

Regarding this award, Director Alberto Barbera declared, “Right from his debut, marked by his innovative and irreverent approach to rules and traditions, Roberto Benigni stands out in the panorama of the Italian performing arts as an unprecedented and unequaled figure of reference. Juggling his appearances on theatrical stages, movie sets, and television studios, each time with surprising results, he shines in all of them thanks to his exuberance and impetuosity, his generous way with the public, and the passionate joyfulness that is perhaps the most original hallmark of his opus. With admirable eclecticism, and always true to form, he is one of the most extraordinary comedy actors in an admittedly rich gallery of Italian performers; a memorable director who makes enormously popular movies; and, his most recent transformation, one of the most esteemed performers and popularizers of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. Few artists have equaled his ability to combine explosive comic timing, which is often accompanied by irreverent satire, with his admirable talent as an actor – at the service of great directors such as Federico Fellini, Matteo Garrone, and Jim Jarmusch – and as an engaging and sophisticated literary exegete.”

Roberto Benigni was born in Misericordia (Castiglion Fiorentino, Arezzo) on October 27, 1952. He began his career in the early 1970s and soon became one of Italy's most beloved and popular actors, directors, and screenwriters, well-known and appreciated throughout the world.

His film La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful, 1997), which he wrote and directed, received the 1998 Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and in 1999, of the seven Oscar nominations the movie received, it won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor (as well as Best Music, awarded to Nicola Piovani). With the same film in 1999 he won the Screen Actor Guild and Bafta award as Best Actor. La vita è bella is Italian cinema's most popular movie: 9.7 million spectators. And it goes down in the history of Italian cinema as the Italian movie that has totaled the highest number of spectators worldwide.

Besides the four David di Donatello Awards and the four Silver Ribbons he won with La vita è bella, Benigni also received David di Donatello Awards for Il piccolo diavolo (The Little Devil, 1988) and Johnny Stecchino (1991); Silver Ribbons for Down by Law (1986), Johnny Stecchino (1991), and La tigre e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow, 2005); and, recently, a David di Donatello Award as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Geppetto in Pinocchio (2019) by Matteo Garrone. In 2008 he received in Paris the César d’Honneur. In 2016, he received an Italian Golden Globe for Lifetime Achievement and the following year, a Special David at the David di Donatello Awards. In 2020 he was awarded the Prix Lumière for Lifetime Achievement.

He has also made his name in American cinema, acting with directors such as Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law, 1986; Night on Earth, 1992; Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003), Blake Edwards (Son of the Pink Panther, 1993), and Woody Allen (To Rome with Love, 2012).