No local films, plenty of politics at Turin

Oliver Stone's 'W.' opens nine-day festival

LONDON -- In a country that loves a movie with political content, Oliver Stone's "W." is sure to ignite healthy debate when today's Italian premiere kicks off the nine-day Turin Film Festival.

The timing certainly couldn't be better, coming little more than two weeks after a U.S. presidential election that still has Europe buzzing.

But Barack Obama's election to the White House was arguably less surprising -- and certainly less controversial -- than this year's lineup, which is completely void of Italian films.

Arguably the country's third most prominent film festival, after Venice and Rome, the Northern Italian film jamboree will come to a close with "The Edge of Love," directed by John Maybury.

Under the watchful eye of filmmaker Nanni Moretti, now in his second year as artistic director, the festival has no Italian films because, according to Moretti, there simply weren't any titles that were up to snuff.

This month, Moretti said there was no political motivation in selecting the films for the event. Indeed, Moretti will be doing his level best to play down comparisons -- favorable or unfavorable -- with the upstart rival Rome International Film Festival, which this year programmed a host of Italian titles.

Moretti said that the U.S. writers strike -- which had an impact on the lineups in Venice, Rome and elsewhere -- also played a role in shaping Turin's lineup. In fact, Moretti went so far as to specifically deny that he was trying to make a statement by eschewing local productions.

Three of this year's 15 competition films are low-budget titles with U.S. connections: Azazel Jacobs' "Momma's Man," "The New Year Parade" from Tom Quinn and Sean Baker's "Prince of Broadway."

Other highlights are likely to include "Bitter & Twisted" from Australia's Christopher Weekes, "Dixia de Tainkong" (The Shaft) from Chinese director Chi Zhang, and Joe Lawlor and Christine Mollowy's missing person drama "Helen."

Bill Maher and Larry Charles' anti-religion documentary "Religulous" also will likely spark controversy with its segments on Catholicism and other organized religions.

The old adage that all politics are local seems set to be a fitting message playing out as the Turin Film Festival gets under way.

The festival wraps Nov. 29.

The full competition lineup follows:

"Bitter & Twisted," Christopher Weekes, Australia
"Demain," Maxime Giroux, Canada
"Dixia De Tiankong" (The Shaft), Chi Zhang, China
"Donne-Moi La Main," Pascal-Alex Vincent, France/Germany
"Entre os Dedos," Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra, Portugal/Brazil
"Helen," Joe Lawlor and Christine Mollowy, Ireland/U.K.
"Mein Freund Aus Faro," Nana Neul, Germany
"Momma's Man," Azazel Jacobs, U.S.
"The New Year Parade," Tom Quinn, U.S.
"Nikoli Nisva Sla v Benekte" (We've Never Been To Venice), Blaz Kutin, Slovenia
"Non-Dit," Fien Troch, Belgium
"Prince Of Broadway," Sean Baker, U.S.
"Quemar Las Naves," Francisco Franco, Mexico
"Tony Manero," Pablo Larrain, Chile/Brazil
"Die Welle," Dennis Gansel, Germany
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