The Merchant Of Venice producer Barry Navidi has confirmed that he hopes to premiere the film at the next Venice Film Festival, which runs from Aug 27-Sep 5.

"The Merchant Of Venice belongs to Venice," Navidi told from the 15th century villa in the suburb of Mestre where the picture is currently shooting. "We would absolutely love to have the premiere here. We could even project the film on the Rialto bridge. Wouldn't that be great'"

Directed by Il Postino's Michael Radford, the $30m William Shakespeare adaptation stars Al Pacino as Shylock, Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio and Down With Love's Lynn Collins as Portia.

Navidi is producing together with Cary Brokaw, who has just swept the board at the Golden Globes with his TV series Angels Of America, as well as Spice Factory's Jason Piette and Michael Cowan.

Executive producers are Blue Spice's Pete Maggi, Michael Hammer, Peter James, and Manfred Wilde.

The film started its 8-week shoot at the end of November in Luxembourg, before moving to Venice and Mestre in early January. Post-production will take place in London.

World-wide distribution is being handled by Gary Hamilton's Arclight Films, who sold the picture last week to New Films International (NFI) for Latin America, Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Baltic States.

The film became involved in a brief spat with the Venice mayor Paolo Costa last week, who failed to show up at a gala dinner to celebrate the film's stars. Costa cited 'political engagements', but the local media clamed he was fuming after Al Pacino allegedly reneged on a promise to attend the grand re-opening of Venice's Fenice opera house on Dec 14. (see Screen International, Jan 23).