Venice headed for potential Toronto overlap

Marco Mueller says next year's fest will start later

VENICE -- The Venice Film Festival might be on a fresh collision course with rival Toronto.

Venice artistic director Marco Mueller said Wednesday that next year's festival will start on Sept. 2 -- a date likely to result in a significant overlap with Toronto.

The two festivals usually cross, but only for a few days. Venice got under way this year on Aug. 27, with Toronto kicking off eight days later. But a Sept. 2 start date -- Aug. 25 would be more in line with Venice's recent history -- could force many filmmakers to decide between the two events rather than appear in both, as has been common over the past several years.

Mueller said Venice's growing rivalry with Toronto had an impact on the way films on the Lido were scheduled this year. Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married," Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" and "The Hurt Locker" from Kathryn Bigelow are all among the major titles screening during Venice's home stretch.

Mueller said that backloading the festival with major titles was intentional. "We have to give people a reason to pay attention to us once Toronto starts up," he said.

This year, Venice has been the subject of criticism in the Italian press, in part because of the relative absence of big names. Venice officials blame the trend on the U.S. writers strike, which they say prevented many projects from being completed in time to come to Venice, and a weak dollar that has made the Lido unusually expensive for U.S.-based visitors.

But Mueller said things will be back to normal next year. He said that the festival already has agreed in principle to screen two "major" Hollywood films made by Venice regulars. The two projects were originally considered likely for this year's festival but pushed back because of delays associated with the writers strike.