U.S. expected to flood Venice

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This year's Venice Film Festival will have an American accent, with the opening film likely to be a Hollywood production and about 15 North American films officially screening in and out of competition, artistic director Marco Muller said Tuesday.

The festival also said that two-time Golden Lion-winning director Zhang Yimou will head the jury for the Golden Lion prize at the 64th edition of the festival. The director won Venice's top prize in 1992 for "The Story of Qiu Ju" and again seven years later with "Not One Less."

Bill Mechanic will head the jury that awards the Luigi De Laurentiis Prize for a First Film, and director Gregg Araki will head the jury for the Horizons section for new filmmaking trends, Venice organizers said.

The festival also said that it will collaborate with October's RomaCinemaFest for its special retrospective on spaghetti Westerns. Muller said that so many films had been rediscovered and refurbished during Venice's planning of its sidebar on the subject that it offered several titles to the Rome festival.

The full, official lineup for what might be Muller's last year as head of the Venice fest will be released July 26. But indications are already strong that fans of English-language films will have plenty to choose from at the Aug. 29-Sept. 8 event.

Muller said that about a third of the overall lineup has been decided and that, so far, more North American films than usual are on the festival's radar. He said the coveted spot for the festival's opening film is likely to come from the U.S. but that it won't be a blockbuster type.

Among the specific titles being mentioned as likely to show up on Venice's big screens is "Planet Terror" from Robert Rodriguez, the zombie film that originally was made as part of "Grindhouse" but that will be released as a stand-alone movie internationally.

"Venice is crazy for that movie," Harvey Weinstein said at a news conference Tuesday when asked about the film.

Other likely candidates include Mike Leigh's untitled '07 project and "These Times" from last year's Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach.
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