Young turks shine at Turin fest

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The Turin Film Festival on Wednesday unveiled a 12-film competition lineup devoid of Italian fare, and first-year artistic director Nanni Moretti pulled no punches in saying how the fledgling RomaCinemaFest and an increasingly crowded festival calendar have affected the 25-year-old event.

Moretti, one of Italy's best-known film directors, assembled an international competition lineup from directors making their first, second or third film, with three projects from the U.S., two from Australia and one each from Canada, Ireland, Germany, Malaysia, Norway, the Philippines and South Korea. Most of the films have screened at other festivals, but each will be new to Italy.

Italian films were conspicuously absent from the competition for the €25,000 ($36,000) top prize — a development Moretti said was in part because of Italy's crowded film festival calendar.

"We focus on emerging directors, and many of the films we would have liked to have already appeared in Venice or, especially, at the RomaCinemaFest," Moretti said, specifically mentioning Jason Reitman's teen comedy "Juno" — which won Rome's top prize — as a film he had wanted to screen in Turin.

Pressed about the RomaCinemaFest — which concluded Oct. 27, just four weeks before Turin's Nov. 23 opening — Moretti did not refrain from taking swipes at the two-year-old event.

"Turin, Venice and Rome agreed last year to work together, and for a few months that's what I said, that the festivals do not complete, that they have different identities," Moretti said. "But the truth is, it bothers me.

"I am not looking for problems, but I am looking at the calendar, and when Rome picks a date that's one month after Venice and one month before Turin, it means they want a competition," he said.

The selections revealed at a nearly full Nuovo Sacher cinema reflected Moretti's background as an auteur and Turin's pedigree as a festival of discovery.

Among the competition highlights are Sarah Polley's cerebral drama about a woman with Alzheimer's disease, "Away From Her," which first screened in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival; Norwegian helmer Bard Breien's "The Art of Negative Thinking," a drama about a man who contemplates suicide after being seriously injured in a car crash; and the festival's opening film, Tamara Jenkins' "The Savages," which tells the story of a brother and sister taking care of their ailing father.

"We didn't get everything we wanted, but that almost never happens," Moretti said. "I can say that I am very pleased with the films we will screen, very proud."

The closing night film Dec. 1 will be David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises," which will screen in the seven-film premiere sidebar — a section for films signed to distribution deals for Italy that have not yet opened in the country.

Asked whether he could identify any trend among this year's competition selection, Moretti demurred. But Emanuela Martini, another Turin official, said there was a trend in terms of subject matter.

Although no Italian titles will appear in competition, they are common in other sections, including a sidebar called La Zona — dedicated to cutting-edge films — and in a special Panorama sidebar that will feature five Italian films.

Moretti persuaded Wim Wenders to come to Turin for a complete retrospective and an onstage conversation and Q&A session. The late John Cassavetes also will be honored with a retrospective.
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