MILAN (AP) — American directors dominated the competition lineup announced Thursday for this year's slimmed-down Venice Film Festival aimed at making the world's oldest movie festival easier to take in.
Brian De Palma and Terrence Malick are among 18 filmmakers competing for the coveted Golden Lion during the 69th edition of the festival, which runs from Aug. 29-Sept. 8. In keeping with recent tradition, a secret film, the 18th entry, will be announced at a later date.
Creative director Alberto Barbera returned this year to the festival he directed from 1998-2002 with a pledge to trim down the number of movies screened overall in order to allow festival goers the possibility to watch "at least almost everything." More recent editions have seen as many as 24 films in competition, and well over 100 screened in all the side events.
This year, a total of 60 films will be shown, 50 of which are world premieres. That's from a pool of 1,459 feature films and 1,772 short films previewed.
Barbera said he agonized over which movies to let in, "losing some friends ... also gaining some others," along the way.
"Imagine the discussions, tensions, nerves, and guilty feelings for what we chose and what we refused," he said. "I forgot how dramatic and difficult it was to choose and call directors that I admire and respect the most and say to them: 'Your film has not been chosen'."
Both De Palma's sexy thriller "Passion" and Malick's romance "To The Wonder" star actress Rachel McAdams. It is De Palma's first feature film since "Redacted," which won Venice's award for best direction in 2007.
Ramin Bahrani will premier "At Any Price," a film set in the competitive world of modern agriculture and starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham, while fellow American Harmony Korine will show his comedy-romance "Spring Breakers," starring James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.
Besides the four U.S. directors, three Italians will premier films, including Marco Bellocchio with "Bella Addormentata," inspired by the real-life case of a young Italian woman whose family waged a battle to remove her feeding tube after she was left comatose by an accident.
Otherwise, the broad field includes films from France, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the Philippines.
Many of the films in competition are co-productions, with France taking the lead with seven. De Palma's film does not get U.S. billing at all, but is rather a French-German production.
Golden Lion-winner Mira Nair opens the festival with "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," starring Riz Ahmed, Kat Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber. The film, which is being shown out of competition, is based on the best-selling book about a young Pakistani Wall Street analyst who gets swept into conflict in his homeland following Sept. 11. Nair won the Golden lion in 2001 for "Monsoon Wedding."
Barbera said the latest festival puts an emphasis on world cinema and also directors who are not household names. He also noted one-third of the films showing at the festival were directed by women — something that happened by chance, he said, since he usually doesn't look at the director's name ahead of time.
"New countries are embracing film production, new authors, new unknown directors," Barbera said. "Of course not everyone could access the festival but we tried to insert a lot of unknown and promising artists. "
Paola Barisani contributed from Rome.