Conflict, cartoon, Hathaway lead Venice film charge

Thu Sep 4, 2008 6:32pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - A hand-drawn Japanese cartoon, the tale of a clash between native Indians and white settlers in Brazil and a portrayal of Ethiopia's bloody past are favorites to win the Venice film festival's top prize on Saturday.

Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway also impressed critics with an unusually dark role, that of a recovering drug addict in "Rachel Getting Married," in what has otherwise been seen as a weak selection of 21 movies in the main competition.

Revered Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki charmed viewers with "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," his re-telling of "The Little Mermaid" fairytale which has already stormed the box office in his homeland.

"For the first time, the public and critics are in agreement over Miyazaki's being an animation masterpiece," wrote veteran film critic Natalia Aspesi in Italian daily La Repubblica.

Were Miyazaki to walk off with the Golden Lion prize for best film at the weekend, it would be the fourth year in a row an Asian director had done so.

Ethiopian entry "Teza" is also in the frame for the coveted award, and would be the first African picture to win in Venice, the world's oldest film festival.

Haile Gerima's powerful tale of an intellectual who flees violence and alienation in his native Ethiopia and Germany, would be a generally popular winner on the Lido waterfront.

The Italian press is hoping for a first home win in 10 years with "Birdwatchers," a depiction of indigenous Guarani-Kaiowas with no prospects other than working in slave-like conditions for rich farmers and posing for tourists' cameras.   Continued...

<p>The sun sets on the Campanile di San Marco in Venice August 30, 2008. The Venice Film Festival is taking place until September 6, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>