Brad Pitt's 'Moneyball' to Kick Off Italy's Turin Film Festival

Moneyball Brad Pitt Dinner - H 2011

Moneyball Brad Pitt Dinner - H 2011

A tribute to "Le Havre" director Aki Kaurismaki and appearances by Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch are also on tap for the film fest's first day.

ROME – A tribute to Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki, the appearance of the director and cast of the upcoming film Venuto al Mondo (Into the World), and the Italian premiere of Bennett Miller’s Moneyball will be the opening day highlights at the 29th Turin Film Festival, which gets underway Friday.

Kaurismaki will be on stage with Turin’s artistic director Gianni Amelio, where he will share the spotlight with actors Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, and Jane Birkin along with director Sergio Castellitto, who are shooting Venuto al Mondo in the Turin area. The film, which tells the story of a single mother bringing her son to Sarajevo, where his father was killed, is scheduled for a autumn 2012 release.

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Kaurismaki’s homage is the director’s second in the Italian-speaking world in less than four months, following a tribute at the Locarno Film Festival in August. But Kaurismaki did not appear at that event, and was instead represented by the two stars of his latest film, Le Havre.

Moneyball, which stars Brad Pitt in the story of the unlikely success of a professional baseball team which manages to be successful despite limited financial resources, made a big splash in the U.S. when it was released in September. But the film is an uncertain commodity in Italy, where Pitt is a mega-star but where baseball has only a niche appeal.

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Overall, the discovery festival -- films in competition have to be among the first three films from that director -- is heavy on Hollywood and Italian productions. The three U.S. films in competition are Win-Win, a coming of age story about a high school wrestler from Tom McCarthy; 50/50, a drama about a cancer victim from Jonathan Levine, and Matthew Petock’s A Little Closer, about a single mother.

The most high profile Italian film in competion is I Piu Gradi di Tutti (The Biggest of Them All), a rock and roll comedy directed by comedian Carlo Virzi. An Italian documentary to keep an eye on is Mussolini’s Body, about Italy’s World War II fascist strongman leader from Fabrizio Laurenti.

The festival runs through Dec. 3.