Australian trek, Sicilian stand-off feature at Venice film fest opening

Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:05pm EDT
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By Isla Binnie

VENICE (Reuters) - The real-life story of a young woman's trek across the Australian desert with four camels and a film about a stand-off between two female Sicilian motorists opened the competition for the 70th Venice film festival on Thursday.

The 10-day cinema circus showcases 3,470 feature-length and short films, of which 20 new works have been selected to compete for eight awards including the coveted Golden Lion for best film.

"Tracks", with Australian actress Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver of TV series "Girls", and director Emma Dante's "Via Castellana Bandiera" kicked off the first day of competition for the gongs, a day after the festival opened with space drama "Gravity", starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

"Tracks", based on Robyn Davidson's 1979 book about her own journey, shows a young woman, bored with city life and haunted by the deaths of her dog and her mother, travelling almost 2,000 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean.

"I'd always been drawn to the purity of the desert, its hot wind and wide open spaces," Davidson, played by Wasikowska, says early in the film.

She sets out on her trip with four camels, brought to Australia by early settlers, earning her the nickname "Camel Lady".

"I think it would be hard for an Australian not to respond to the film on a visceral level," Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney told Reuters after the debut screening.

"I found it quite transporting actually, like I was there in the desert with her."   Continued...

Director John Curran (L) and actress Mia Wasikowska pose during a photocall during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi