Venice Film Festival displays young talent

Marco Mueller identifies 'sense of artistic urgency'

ROME -- A year after delays in production tied to the U.S. writers strike helped produce what appears to be the Venice Film Festival's weakest lineup in years, the festival hopes to be back on track when it opens Wednesday with a star-studded lineup full of firsts.

The main competition selection will include five first works from among the record-setting 19 debut or second efforts in the overall selection.

"Baaria," a biopic from Oscar winner Giuseppe Tornatore, will be the first Italian film to open the festival in a generation.

The festival will hold its first sidebar competition for 3D films.

There's even first-time star power on tap, as action film icon Sylvester Stallone -- who played the boxer known as "The Italian Stallion" in Oscar-winning "Rocky" in 1976 -- will make his first trip to Venice's Lido to receive a prize for his influence on world cinema.

Ditto for Michael Moore, whose latest documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story" will mark his first appearance in Venice after taking home top honors in Cannes twice.

But it's the high number of first films that is attracting the most attention locally. The first-time directors are not without pedigree (one, Tom Ford, is a noted fashion designer, while another, Ahmed Maher, has an award-winning background as an artist), but Venice artistic director Marco Mueller said that what the films have in common is a "sense of artistic urgency."

That may prove true -- critics will pronounce the storied festival's lineup a success or failure only after the final credits roll for the last film -- but most agree that the emphasis on relatively inexperienced directors is at least partially economic. With the world economy in turmoil, new directors generally cost less.

"Sure, there's a risk in going with these young directors," said Italian director Citto Maselli, a Venice fixture. "But Venice takes risks, that's what Venice does. I think it's a calculated risk, an intelligent risk."

The 66th edition of the festival runs through Sept. 12.