Silvio Soldini was born in Milan and moved to New York in 1979 to study film at New York University.
In 1982 he returned to Milan, developing contacts with people who shared his enthusiasm for filmmaking (among whom Luca Bigazzi, director of photography for all his films). With this group, Soldini self-produced two low-budget medium length films: Paesaggio con figure and Giulia in ottobre, both award winners at a number of national and international festivals.
With some of his closest collaborators in 1984 Soldini launched his own company, Monogatari, which began producing all his films. Soldini started shooting documentaries as well in 1985 and made the video Voci celate, filmed in a day hospital for the mentally ill. The film won the Salsomaggiore Festival competition.
The director's first feature for commercial distribution followed in 1989 with L'aria serena dell'ovest, particularly well received by the public. The film participated in competition at the Locarno Festival, won the Saint-Vincent Grolla d'Oro award for Best Screenplay, the Grand Prix at Annecy, and was selected for screening at many important festivals around the world including Montreal, Rotterdam, and New York's "New Directors" at the MOMA.
In 1993 Soldini made his second feature Un'anima divisa in due. Presented in competition at Venice, the film was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for Fabrizio Bentivoglio's performance.
He then made Le acrobate in 1996, a feature presented in competition at Locarno and at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The film received First Prize at the Rencontres Internationales de Cinéma de Paris, and the Saint Vincent Grolla d'Oro Award for Valeria Golino's performance as Best Actress.
Tremendous success awaited Soldini in the year 2000 with the comedy Bread and Tulips (Pane e tulipani), enthusiastically acclaimed by both critics and the public. Soldini's success on the international scene was solidly confirmed with impressive worldwide sales – from Japan to Australia – and box office records notably in Switzerland ("Best Box Office 2000") and Germany (over 1,000,000 spectators). The film won 9 David di Donatello Awards, 5 Nastri d'Argento, 9 Ciak d'oro, the Premio Flaiano, and received 3 European Academy Awards nominations.
The year 2002 marked the release of his film, Burning in the Wind (Brucio nel vento), based on the novel Hier (Yesterday) by Agota Kristof.
With 2004's Agata and the Storm Soldini continued his streak of acclaimed films. Agata was nominated for 8 David di Donatello Awards (Italian Oscars).