The Venice International Film Festival, which opens August 31 and runs through September 10, has 19 films vying for the "Golden Lion" award in the Competition section of the festival. The festival will also feature Out of Competition and Horizons sections, as well as The Secret History of Asian Cinema.
Qi Jian (Seven Swords) by Tsui Hark, will open the festival. Shot in locations around Xinjiang, China, the film features a cast packed with some of the brightest stars in Asian film, including Leon Lai (Three, Infernal Affairs), Charlie Young (New Police Story, Fallen Angels), Donnie Yen (Blade 3, Hero), Chinese actors Sung Hong-Lei (Zhou Yu's Train) and Lu Yi, and Korean actress Kim So Yeon. Eddie Wong (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) helmed the costume and set designs, and martial arts choreographer Lar Kar-Leung (Drunken Master 2) managed the action.Casanova, the hotly anticipated film by Swedish director Lasse Hallström, will have its world premiere September 3 as a gala selection. The film stars Heath Ledger as Casanova, along with Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Lena Olin. Casanova is the first film by a major prodco to be filmed entirely in Italy (specifically, in Venice), and is being distributed by Buena Vista International.
Among the films in competition for the Golden Lion Award are George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, starring George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr, and Patricia Clarkson; Abel Ferrara's Mary, starring Juliette Binoch, Matthew Modine and Forest Whitaker; Matt Damon vehicle The Brothers Grimm, helmed by Terry Gilliam and also starring Heath Ledger, Jonathon Pryce and Monica Bellucci; Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (yet another film with Heath Ledger, who is really making the rounds this festival); John Madden's Proof, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Anthony Hopkins; and Romance and Cigarettes, a John Turturro film starring James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken.
The Secret History of Asian Cinema is a section of rediscovered and newly restored works personally curated by the festival's director, Marco Muller. The first section, The Secret History of Chinese Cinema, will feature 10 films produced between the mid-1930's (the "golden age" for Chinese studios) and 1949 (the move to Revolutionary China). Other features will include some restored masterpieces by directing master Xie Jin, and a rare 1941work by brothers Wai Laiming and Wan Guchan, Tieshan Gongzhu (The Princess With the Steel Fan), the first feature-length Chinese cartoon.
There will also be sections on The Secret History of Japanese Cinema (films from 1926 to 1978) and The Secret History of Italian Cinema (a retrospective on Italian films from 1946 to 1976).
The Horizons section, focusing on new trends in cinema, will feature films including Werner Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder, Philip Groning's documentary Die Grosse Stille, and Liev Schrieber's Everything is Illuminated, starring Elijah Wood.
The Out of Competition section - "highly spectacular" films not in competition, includes such films as Tim Burton's newest animated effort, Corpse Bride (with voices by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter); Jaume Balaguero's Fragile, starring Calista Flockhart; Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, and Susan Sarandon; Edmond, helmed by Stuart Gordon and starring William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, and Julia Stiles; Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger; and John Singletons' Four Brothers, starring Mark Wahlberg.
Three animated films by Hayao Miyazaki, being awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, will also be shown.