'Wrestler' in the ring at Venice Film Festival

Mickey Rourke starrer will premiere Friday

VENICE -- A Venice Film Festival criticized in part for its lack of star power welcomed its last group of stars Thursday as Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood -- the leads of Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" -- took to the Lido.

"Wrestler," which centers on an aging former professional wrestler, will be the fest's final premiere at the Sala Grande when it unspools Friday. The festival wraps Saturday with its prize ceremony.

Thursday's premiere was the well-received "The Hurt Locker" from Kathryn Bigelow, the festival's lone Iraq War film a year after three were featured.

The first awards already have been dished out.

Mexico's Carlos Armella took home the Corto Cortissimo sidebar's prize for best short film for his "Tierre y Pan," while Karchi Perlmann's "The Dinner" nabbed an honorable mention. The sidebar received added attention when Natalie Portman's directorial debut, "Eve," opened the section out of competition.

Venice's 1985 Golden Lion winner Agnes Varda won the Glory to the Filmmaker career award Thursday and will be honored with a world premiere screening of her autobiographical doc "The Beaches of Agnes."

Thursday also featured news of the festival's first sales. Although the industry office won't report sales totals until the festival closes, Italy's RAI Trade said it has sold distribution rights to Pupi Avati's competition drama "Il Papa di Giovanni" to Paradis for France, ABC Films for Belgium and Holland, and Palance Pictures for Australia.