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Culture

Venice Film Festival kicks off

The 67th Venice International Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday. German director Tom Tykwer's "Three" is among the films vying for the Golden Lion award.

Quentin Tarantino

The "Inglourious Basterds" director heads the jury

The glamour kicked off Wednesday as the 67th Venice International Film Festival began with US director Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller "Black Swan," starring Natalie Portman.

The annual celebration of cinema, the world's oldest film festival, runs 11 days and will screen entries from 34 countries. Films include Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," "Essential Killing" by Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski and "Three" by German director Tom Tykwer.

A mystery contender is expected to be announced on Sunday.

This year, organizers have put the focus on younger, more experimental filmmakers. It is a mix between art and commerce, according to artistic director Marco Mueller.

"We want to look in all directions," he said. "This is cinema where we've brought together all sorts of oppositional possibilities."

One of the big stars this year in Venice is American director Quentin Tarantino, although he has not come with a film under his arm. This time, he is serving as head of the jury who will decide which film takes home the prestigious Golden Lion.

Travel ban

Noted Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was unable to attend the festivities after the Iranian government confiscated his passport in retaliation for a film about the aftermath of Iran's disputed 2009 election. Panahi's critical film "The Circle," about the treatment of women in Iran, won the festival's Golden Lion award in 2000.

Joining Tarantino on the jury are French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin, screenwriter, director and producer Guillermo Arriaga of Mexico and Italian director and screenwriter Gabriele Salvatores. Prizes include the Golden Lion for best film, Volpi Cups for best actor and actress and a special jury prize.

logo for festival

The festival began in 1932 in the lagoon city

German director Tom Tykwer is debuting his film "Drei" ("Three") at the festival, which deals with a couple in their 40s who live in Berlin. Both separately meet a younger man, and both fall in love with him.

According to the director, the film explores the "the yearning, hope, riddles and contradictions of three people who find themselves confronted in middle age with fundamental questions."

One quarter of the films in competition are from the US, as are a majority of the films overall at the festival. Coppola's entry "Somewhere" tells the story of a Hollywood actor fond of self-destructive behavior who finds his life turned upside down by the appearance of his 11-year-old daughter.

'Black Swan'

The lead-off film "Black Swan," by Darren Aronofsky, is a taut psychological drama that deals with the world of ballet and the cruelty that can be inflicted upon those in it. Natalie Portman plays ballerina Nina, who inflicts pain on her own fragile psyche as Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" reverberates around her.

Portman, who started ballet lessons at age four and abandoned them when she was 14, trained five hours a day for months to be able to play the role.

Aronofsky took home the Golden Lion in 2008 for his film "The Wrestler," starring Mickey Rourke.

"They are very related to each other," Aronofsky said, adding that he considered the two films "companion pieces."

A total of 24 films are competing for the top prize this year. The festival runs through September 11.

Author: Sarah Harman, Kyle James (Reuters/AP/AFP)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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