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Casey Affleck: Joaquin Phoenix doc 'no hoax'

But director admits that audiences are likely to be confused

VENICE -- After "I'm Still Here," the directorial debut from actor Casey Affleck, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, many were still left wondering if it was an elaborate hoax on the media and public.
 
"I'm Still Here," which recounts the transition of actor Joaquin Phoenix into an aspiring rapper, screened to a packed Sala Grande crowd Monday afternoon and was one of the hot topics on the Lido afterward for its graphic depictions of drinking and drug abuse. Affleck is married to former actress Summer Phoenix, Joaquin's sister.

Long before the out-of-competition film's world premiere, some had wondered whether Phoenix was staging an elaborate hoax on the media and public, including his confused, mumbling appearance on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" last year.

"I can tell you that there is no hoax. That never even entered into my consciousness until other people began to talk about the movie," Affleck told reporters at a briefing after the film's screening where he was asked repeatedly about whether certain scenes -- and the movie in general -- were genuine.

But he conceded that audiences were likely to be confused.

Phoenix arrived on the Lido clean shaved and smartly dressed but did not turn up at the red carpet for the premiere.
 
Also on Monday, the festival presented the Glory to the Filmmaker prize to Indian director Mani Ratnam.

Ratnam, meanwhile, joins Sylvester Stallone, Agnes Varda, Abbas Kiarostami, and Takeshi Kitano as those the festival has honored with the Glory to the Filmmaker prize, which is given to figures who have "left a mark" on contemporary cinema.
 
After the prize ceremony, the international premiere of Ratnam's adventure story "Raavanan," about a bandit who kidnaps and then falls in love with the wife of a policeman, screened in the Sala Grande.

The festival also announced that "Le fosse" (The Ditch), a 1950s period drama set in China from documentary filmmaker Wang Bing, was the festival's surprise film and the last of the 24 in competition films at this year's festival. The film, which tells the story of the forced labor camps where thousands of alleged Chinese dissidents were sent after the country's communist revolution, had its premiere Monday night in the festival's Sala Darsena venue.
 
In addition to "Le fosse," the other in-competition film to premiere Monday was Jerzy Skolimowski's thriller "Essential Killing," about a captured Afghan extremist, played by Vincent Gallo, who escapes from prison in snowy Europe.

Reuters contributed to this report.