July 27, 2006

Venice film fest bets on world premiere lineup

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - This year's Venice Film Festival will take
a gamble by screening only world premieres in its main
competition, organizers said as they unveiled the lineup for
the world's oldest cinema contest on Thursday.

"It's a gamble because there is a risk of failure," said
Marco Muller, director of the 63rd edition of the festival,
which starts on August 30.

"But the successes scored at the box offices and at the
Oscars by last year's Venice premieres pushed us to make this
choice. It's the first time in the festival's history," he told
a news conference in Rome.

Twenty-three of the films presented at the Lido last year,
both in the main competition and elsewhere, went on to win
Oscar nominations, although gay romance "Brokeback Mountain" --
which won the top prize in Venice -- surprisingly failed to
garner the coveted best film Academy Award.

Four star-packed Hollywood films, including Brian De
Palma's "The Black Dahlia" which will open the festival, will
vie for this year's Golden Lion top prize along with 17 new
movies from directors like Stephen Frears, Alfonso Cuaron and
Alain Resnais.

Outside the competition, Oliver Stone's "World Trade
Center," David Lynch's "Inland Empire" and Manoel de Oliveira's
"Belle toujours" -- a sequel of Luis Bunuel's classic "Belle de
Jour" -- are among the most attention-grabbing titles.


Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore,
Adrien Brody, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Clive Owen are
some of the celebrities who could hit the red carpet during the
10-day event, which will screen a total of 62 films.

Besides Hollywood, the lineup highlights Asian cinema but
also gives plenty of room to Italy, which will be represented
by 10 films of which two are in the main competition.

"This year we have films from 27 countries against 18 for
last year, including Chad, Malaysia and Indonesia," said
Muller. "It's great to have this kind of diversity."

The Venice festival has been dogged by controversy and
organisational problems as well as lack of financial backing
for its new 100-million-euro ($127.5 million), iceberg-shaped
Palace of Cinema.

But Muller and Davide Croff, director of the Biennale art
foundation that oversees the Lido competition, were upbeat
about the future.

"We had a very good edition last year and this year we'll
strive to do even better," Muller said, adding that Italy's new
centre-left government had pledged funds for the new Palazzo.

Croff also played down rivalry with Rome's new
international film festival, whose debut is scheduled for

"I think people have quite unsuccessfully tried to stir up
a controversy. Venice will cooperate with Rome," he said.

Muller said 1,429 films applied for this year's selection,
300 more than last year.