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Venice International Film Festival kicks off
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The annual famous International Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday evening in this beautiful island Lido of Venice, in Italy.

Actress Tilda Swinton attends a press conference for the film Burn after Reading which opened the 65th Venice Film Festival on August 27, 2008. [Xinhua Photo] 

George Clooney kicks off the Venice Film Festival with the world premiere of the Coen brothers' latest work but from then on Hollywood gives way to indie movies, Japanese anime and more Italian films than usual.

Clooney and his pal Brad Pitt hit the red carpet to promote Joel and Ethan Coen's Burn After Reading, a crime comedy also starring John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton.

The movie, about two gym employees' bungled attempts to sell a CIA disc, is not among the 21 films in competition but audience and critical reaction may show whether the brothers can repeat last year's Oscar success with No Country For Old Men which won the best picture and director awards.

The only U.S. films by name directors are Jonathan (Silence of the Lambs) Demme's family dysfunction comedy Rachel Getting Married starring Anne Hathaway and three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger, and Kathryn (Point Break) Bigelow's Hurt Locker, an Iraq drama starring Colin Farrell, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes and Willem Dafoe.

The other American films in competition are by lesser-known or first-time directors.

Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler stars Mickey Rourke in the title role while Vegas, Based On A True Story is top Iranian director Amir Naderi's bid for wider fame.

Acclaimed Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel) makes his debut behind the camera with The Burning Plain, a multi-layered family drama featuring Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron. Japan and Italy occupy most of the remaining positions on the starting grid with three and four films respectively.

Two of the Japanese films are anime including cult director Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo On Cliff By The Sea.

Miyazaki, who made the Oscar-nominated Spirited Away, has scored a huge hit in his home country with Ponyo. Another anime king, Mamoru Oshii, presents The Sky Crawlers while cult director Takeshi Kitano, a Golden Lion winner in 1997, has Achilles And The Tortoise in competition this time.

With the heavy Japanese presence, it could be the fourth straight year that the Golden Lion goes to Asia which won last year with Lust, Caution by Taiwan's Ang Lee.

Four Italian films will compete for the Lion: Pupi Avati's Il papa' di Giovanna (Giovanna's Dad); Pappi Corsicato's Il seme della discordia (The Seed of Discord); Chilean-Italian Marco Bechis's Birdwatchers; and Turkish-Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek's Un giorno perfetto (A Perfect Day).

The 65th Venice International Film Festival, organized by the Venice Biennale, runs from August 27 to September 6.

(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2008)

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