Venice opens with Sicilian epic, U.S. films dominate

Tue Sep 1, 2009 6:27pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - The Venice film festival opens on Wednesday with Italian movie "Baaria," an epic Sicilian drama taking in Fascism, World War Two and Communism and billed as one of the country's biggest movies ever.

Organizers will hope director Giuseppe Tornatore's entry wins over audiences after a series of Italian disappointments in recent years, although it is Hollywood which looks set to grab most of the headlines during the 11-day cinema showcase.

The world's oldest film festival, which runs from September 2-12, has succeeded in luring a string of big names to the sun-drenched Lido waterfront this year as it fights to compete with rival competitions around the world.

Matt Damon appears in "The Informant!," in which he plays a crooked company whistleblower, and Michael Moore brings "Capitalism: A Love Story," a documentary attacking corporate greed and analyzing the recession.

They are expected to be joined on the red carpet by Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Oliver Stone, Charlize Theron, Eva Mendes, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone among others.

Venice is banking on Hollywood heavyweights, and a selection which critics say looks strong on paper, to help it compete with other festivals, most notably Toronto with which it overlaps, and generate early buzz as the awards season approaches.

"I think (Venice director) Marco Mueller realized in particular this year he really has to put together a strong program because a lot of the international press will continue to be leaving and that would be a disaster," said Jay Weissberg, a critic at trade publication Variety.

"That's why he's put in so many American titles because that obviously gets more press."   Continued...

<p>U.S. director Michael Moore arrives at the world premiere screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" by U.S. director Steven Spielberg at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 18, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>