Copyright 2004

[ September 1st 2004 ]

The Venice Film Festival will be opened by Hollywood royalty tonight, as Oscar-winners Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg screen their blockbuster The Terminal. The film, which starts an 11-day celebration of film in the Italian city, tells the story of an Eastern European traveller who gets stuck in an airport - but has the good fortune to run into Catherine Zeta-Jones. As well as the cast of The Terminal, stars expected to attend the festival include Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, John Travolta and Al Pacino.

Before his arrival, Spielberg eulogized the glorious lagoon city, saying it helps people rediscover their sense of wonder. "The festival, the city and the islands around it are a place rich with charm where cinema finds a magical setting," he said in a column published in Corriere della Sera newspaper. Although American stars may be responsible for much of the glamour, there will be a more serious side to the festival, particularly among among the 21 films jostling for the prestigious Golden Lion awards.

Mar Adentro, by Alejandro Amenabar, tells of a paralysed Spaniard's attempts to end his life. Mike Leigh tells the story of Vera Drake, an abortionist in 1950s England. Wim Wenders, a German Director, addresses American life after the Sept. 11 attacks in Land of Plenty, and Amos Gitai's Promised Land deals with enslavement in Israel.

Other contenders are the Nicole Kidman vehicle Birth, Mira Nair's adaptation of Thackeray's 19th-century novel Vanity Fair, Todd Solondz's Palindromes, L'Intrus, by Claire Denis of France, and the Italian Gianni Amelio's Le Chiavi di Casa. Out-of-competition pictures include The Manchurian Candidate, Spike Lee's She Hate Me, Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.

Big productions include the three-director picture Eros, made by Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh and Wong Kar-wai, as well as a British-Italian version of The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino as Shylock. As well as the mainstream pictures, dozens of features and shorts will play at sites around Venice's Lido, the little island where the festival is held off the centre of the canal city. The nine-person jury that gives out the Golden Lions is headed by British director John Boorman and includes Spike Lee and actresses Scarlett Johansson and Helen Mirren. The prizes will be awarded on September 11 at a ceremony hosted by Sophia Loren.

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