With veteran Berlinale festival director, Moritz de Hadeln at the helm, the sixtieth Venice Film Festival that kicks off Wednesday promises to be a lively affair, brimming with sex, controversy and glamour.
The 60th Venice film festival gets underway on Wednesday in the lagoon city.
In his introduction to Venice's sixtieth birthday, de Hadeln said that British director Peter Greenaway had proposed staging a conference in Venice entitled 'Cinema is Dead!', a declaration which he claims couldn't be further from the truth. "Cinema is livelier than ever," de Hadeln says. And he has put together a festival to prove his point.
If the second film feast under his baton has a recurring theme, then it could be sex. Although de Hadeln says he doesn't want to overstate the point, the festival program includes many explicit statements and scenes, which he says are justified through their artistic merit.
Bernardo Bertolucci's latest offering The Dreamers, which gives center-stage to a 1968 sexual awakening in France, already has critics comparing it with his steamy film Last Tango in Paris. Then there is French Director Bruno Dumont's newest offering Twenty-nine Palms, which tells the story of a primitive love affair in the Californian dessert.
Islam washes up on Venetian shores
But sex is by no means the only controversial subject on the agenda at Venice this year. On the contrary, the festival will also serve as a platform for films dealing with anti-Islamic sentiment in the wake of the Iraq war.
"The fact is that the war in Iraq brought up some pretty nasty statements and ignorance about what Islam is really all about," de Hadeln, who headed the Berlinale for 22 years, told Reuters. "We’re not here to school people, but if there are films treating this subject directly or indirectly, I wanted to show them." De Hadeln believes it is the role of festivals to give filmmakers the chance express themselves, and has included two Iranian films and one each from Algeria and Lebanon, along with a French movie Raja, which turns on the spotlight on a Moroccan immigrant in France.
German film in running for Golden Lion
While some films tackle the issues embedded in, and born out of the recent Iraq war, others plough further through the annals of time. 61-year-old German director Margarethe von Trotta's (photo) latest film, Rosenstrasse starring Katja Reimann and Maria Schrader journeys back to the Third Reich, where she retells the events which led to the public protest of German women securing the unexpected release of their interned Jewish husbands. The film, a mixture of history and melodrama, is the only German film in the running for a Golden Lion.
Margarethe von Trotta, possibly the best known woman director to emerge from the New German Cinema, began her cinema career with heavyweights Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Volker Schlöndorff, before going on to direct her own critically acclaimed feature films. Although Rosenstrasse is her first cinema feature for almost a decade, she is no stranger to Venice and the thrill of the chase for a Golden Lion. In 1981, she was awarded the coveted prize for her film Die bleierne Zeit (Marianne and Juliane).
There are hundreds of films to be screened before the moment of judgement arrives on September 6th, and as festival organizers are keen to stress, competition this year is tough.
With an unprecedented number of films submitted for inclusion in the program, the jury is in for some late nights. And as for those just there to enjoy the silver screen, organizers are confident that their palette of 'lively' film won't disappoint.
Robert Benton is back with a film version of the highly acclaimed Philip Roth novel The Human Stain, starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman. It tells the story of a distinguished university professor whose professional life is shattered by allegations of racism and whose personal life is overshadowed by a web of lies he has been living for fifty years.
The new Coen-Brothers thriller starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones will also feature during the festival, as will Robert Rodriguez's desperado film Once Upon a Time in Mexico with Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp.
U.S. film maker Woody Allen
The curtain officially opens on the festival this evening with Woody Allen's (photo) latest film Anything Else, which has brought him to the festival personally for the first time in his long career.