67th Venice fest has strong Italian flavor

41 Italian films to screen in festival's four selections

ROME -- The world's oldest film festival gets underway for the 67th time Wednesday, this time with an unusually Italian feel to it.

The relative youth of the directors represented in competition (average age: 47), or the relatively small budgets of the main films set to screen (because of the economic crisis) have received plenty of attention internationally. But in Italy, attention has focused on how well represented the country's films are at the storied event.

All told, 41 Italian films will screen in the festival's four official selections, almost double the 22 that screened a year ago. Four -- generally considered the unofficial limit for homegrown productions – will screen in competition, and the festival will also host a special sidebar on Italian comedy for the half century ending in the 1980s.

A day before the festival officially gets underway, wheels were already in motion: noted Italian producer Aurelio De Laurentiis was given a career prize Tuesday on the sidelines of the festival in connection with the launch of the third installment of De Laurentiis' highly successful "Manuale d'amore" (Love Manual) franchise, which will feature an appearance by Robert De Niro.

Festival organizers also announced the jury for the festival's new award for 3-D films. Horror film director Takashi Shimizu will head the jury, which will also include Village Voice critic Jim Hoberman and 3-D film director David Zamagni.

The festival, which will screen a total of 80 world premieres, will conclude Sept. 11.