Achilles And The Tortoise (Akires To Kame) (Jap)

Dir: Takeshi Kitano

The story: Follows a failed painter and the long-suffering family that supports him.

The cast: Kitano takes the lead, alongside Kanako Higuchi and popular actress Kumiko Aso, whose credits include Dororo.

The buzz: A well-established figure on the Lido, Kitano returns with a more orthodox tale which features his own artwork - he is known for his painting talent - as did his 1997 Golden Lion winner Hana-bi.

Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 49 70 03 70

Birdwatchers (La Terra Degli Uomini Rossi) (It)

Dir: Marco Bechis

The story: Amazon-set film about personal identity and tribal heritage as two worlds collide.

The cast: Claudio Santamaria, one of Italy's top talents, with credits including Crime Novel and Casino Royale, stars with Chiara Caselli and a Brazilian cast of professionals including Leonardo Medeiros and non-professionals.

The buzz: Bechis spent years preparing the film, working with the Amazon natives. The director's last appearance in Venice was in Cinema del Presente in 2001 with Hijos, also set in Brazil.

Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 49 70 03 70.

A Perfect Day (Un Giorno Perfetto) (It)

Dir: Ferzan Ozpetek

The story: An adaptation of the novel by popular writer Melania Mazzucco, which looks at life in Rome over 24 hours.

The cast: As with his previous films, Ozpetek lines up an ensemble cast of Italy's best-loved actors - Valerio Mastandrea and Isabella Ferrari top the bill alongside veteran actress Stefania Sandrelli.

The buzz: Last year Ozpetek was on the Venice jury and this is his first year in Venice's official competition. The film is also his first to be produced by Domenico Procacci's Fandango. It is co-produced by Rai Cinema.

Int'l sales: Fandango Portobello, (44) 20 7605 1396; Claudia Tomassini, (39) 334 3075056

The Hurt Locker (US)

Dir: Kathryn Bigelow

The story: The new leader of an elite bomb-disposal unit in Iraq plunges his soldiers into a game of urban combat which has long-term effects on their lives.

The cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes.

The buzz: Bigelow can always be relied on to deliver heart-pounding thrills with intelligent storytelling. She returns to Venice for the first time in 13 years since the world premiere of Strange Days.

North American rights: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000

Int'l sales: Voltage Pictures, (1) 310 890 4199

The Burning Plain (US)

Dir: Guillermo Arriaga

The story: Four interlinked tales of love and redemption examine the lengths to which people will go to exorcise the demons of the past.

The cast: Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.

The buzz: The feature directorial debut from the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel and 21 Grams has been a while in the making. Can Arriaga translate his writer's gift for complex storytelling into a well-crafted feature'

North American sales: UTA, (1) 310 271 6700

Int'l sales: 2929 International, (1) 310 309 5200

Inland (Gabbla) (Alg-Fr)

Dir: Tariq Teguia

The story: A topographer meets a traumatised woman in western Algeria who persuades him to accompany her back home across the Sahara and through war-torn regions in the east.

The cast: Unknowns including Kader Affak, Ines Rose Djakou, Fethi Ghares, Kouider Medjahed and Djalila Kadi-Hanifi star alongside Ahmed Benaissa who also appeared in Teguia's Rome Rather Than You.

The buzz: Inland is one of two African films in competition at Venice this year. Director Teguia has an impressive track record - his debut, the short film Hacla, won the special jury award at Marrakesh in 2003 and his second film, Rome Rather Than You, was in Venice's Horizons sidebar in 2006. Marco Mueller has called him the 'most important voice of new Arab cinema'.

Int'l sales: Neffa Films, (213) 66209 6500

Inju, La Bete Dans L'Ombre (Fr)

Dir: Barbet Schroeder

The story: A French writer heads to Japan to promote his new book and becomes embroiled in a real-life thriller.

The cast: Benoit Magimel, Lika Minamoto and Shun Sugata. Magimel is a huge star in France and one of the most prolific actors working today; international audiences may recognise him from Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher. This is Minamoto's first major role while Sugata has done much work in Japan and had small roles in such US fare as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol 1 and The Last Samurai.

The buzz: This is a return to Venice for Schroeder who last competed in 2000 with Our Lady Of The Assassins. For that film he took the president of the Italian senate's gold medal. Inju is Schroeder's first fiction work in France since 1986 (last year he directed the documentary Terror's Advocate, about French attorney Jacques Verges).

Int'l sales: UGC International, (33) 1 46 40 44 00

Jerichow (Ger)

Dir: Christian Petzold

The story: A young man returns to his home town in eastern Germany and begins an affair with a married woman. Their plan to murder her husband triggers a catastrophe.

The cast: Jerichow marks Petzold's fourth collaboration with lead actress Nina Hoss following Something To Remind Me, Wolfsburg and Yella, for which she was awarded the best actress Silver Bear at last year's Berlinale. It is also the third time the director has cast Benno Furmann (previously seen in Wolfsburg and Ghosts), but the first project with Turkish-born actor Hilmi Sozer, the third member of the love triangle.

The buzz: Partly inspired by Vincente Minnelli's 1958 film Some Came Running, Jerichow is 'about love, honesty, deception and betrayal', says Petzold. It is his seventh film with Berlin-based producer Schramm Film which also produced his drama The State I Am In (it premiered in Venice's Cinema del Presente sidebar in 2000). According to producer Florian Koerner von Gustorf: 'Christian is drawing the essence out of all of his previous works and letting everything flow into Jerichow.'

Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 2 21 5 39 70 90

Milk (Sut) (Turk-Fr-Ger)

Dir: Semih Kaplanoglu

The story: The second film in Kaplanoglu's 'Yusef' trilogy - Egg, Milk, Honey - which focuses on the change in the social and economic life in the Anatolian provinces within the framework of a mother-son relationship. Milk is about a young boy who discovers his mother is having a secret affair with the town's stationmaster.

The cast: Melih Selcuk plays Yusef, while Basak Koklukaya plays the boy's mother. Her most recent film, Kucuk Kiyamet, was in competition at the Istanbul film festival last year, and she has starred in films for Ferzan Ozpetek.

The buzz: Milk is the first Turkish film to screen in competition at Venice since Omer Kavur's Gizli Yuz in 1991. No stranger to success on the international festival circuit (winning nine of the 10 awards for which he has competed), it is not surprising Kaplanoglu is 'excited' to be at Venice for the first time. Could be one to watch.

Int'l sales: Match Factory, (49) 2 21 5 39 7090

Nuit De Chien (Fr)

Dir: Werner Schroeter

The story: A man returns to a fictitious country to join the woman he loves. Instead, he confronts a violent militia which is terrorising the city and has sent it spiralling into chaos.

The cast: A starry line-up includes Pascal Greggory, Bruno Todeschini, Eric Caravaca, Amira Casar, Jean-Francois Stevenin and Elsa Zylberstein. The prolific Greggory last appeared in 2007's smash hit La Vie En Rose.

The buzz: This is Schroeter's first time in competition in Venice. The German director's last film was also a French effort, Deux in 2002.

Int'l sales: Alfama Films Productions, (33) 1 42 01 07 05

Paper Soldier (Bumazhny Soldat) (Rus)

Dir: Aleksey German Jr

The story: Set in the Baikonur space centre in 1961, Paper Soldier is the story of a doctor involved in preparations for the first human space flight, who is torn between his wife and his lover.

The cast: Acclaimed Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova, who appeared in Good Bye Lenin!, stars alongside her Luna Papa co-star, Georgian actor Merab Ninidze, and newcomer Anastasya Shevelyova, a theatre actress from Omsk in Siberia.

The buzz: This is the second time German has appeared in competition at Venice. His last film, Garpastum, competed in 2005, and he also won the Luigi De Laurentiis special mention in 2003 for The Last Train (Posledniy Poezd). German, one of Russia's hottest young directors, says he has his 'fingers crossed' for a win this year.

Int'l sales: Elle Driver, (33) 1 56 43 48 76

Plastic City (Dangkou) (Braz-Chi-HK-Jap)

Dir: Yu Lik-wai

The story: Set amid the Japanese immigrant community in Sao Paulo, the story follows an Asian gangster who is forced to defend his father's criminal empire when the older man is arrested and then disappears into the jungle.

The cast: Japanese star Joe Odagiri (Shinobi, Bright Future) heads the cast which also include Hong Kong's Anthony Wong (Infernal Affairs) and promising Chinese actress Huang Yi.

The buzz: Renowned as a DoP who works with Jia Zhangke, Hong Kong-born Yu Lik-wai has previously directed two highly stylised features - Love Will Tear Us Apart and All Tomorrow's Parties - which were both selected for Cannes. His third feature deals with gangsters in an intriguing multicultural setting, although the action is more psychological then physical, and his depiction of Sao Paulo is tinged with hallucinatory visuals.

Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 49 70 03 70

The Other One (L'Autre) (Fr)

Dirs: Patrick-Mario Bernard, Pierre Trividic

The story: Based on the novel L'Occupation by Annie Ernaux, The Other One follows a woman who becomes dangerously obsessed with the new woman in her ex-lover's life.

The cast: Dominique Blanc, one of France's best-known stars who has won several Cesars including best actress for 2001's Stand-by, stars alongside Cyril Guei, Peter Bonke and Christele Tual.

The buzz: The film is the fifth collaboration between writer-directors Bernard and Trividic - they made their feature debut with festival favourite Dancing in 2003 in which they also starred. Their credits include Ceci Est Une Pipe for Canal Plus and a programme about author HP Lovecraft for France 3.

Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 99

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Gake No Ue No Ponyo) (Jap)

Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

The story: Animated fantasy about a fish with a girl's face who befriends a young boy.

The buzz: Japan's animation giant returns to the Lido four years after Howl's Moving Castle screened in competition and won a Golden Osella. Here, Miyazaki trades CG for a hand-painted watercolour look.

A megahit in Japan, grossing $50m and counting, Ponyo's international premiere in Venice comes ahead of a US release by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The pair were requested to head the project by Ponyo producer Toshio Suzuki.

Int'l sales: Wild Bunch, (33) 1 5301 5021

Rachel Getting Married (US)

Dir: Jonathan Demme

The story: A cynical drama queen returns home for a family wedding and awakens deep tensions.

The cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger.

The buzz: Demme returns to Venice with a top-notch female cast following last year's Fipresci-prize winner Jimmy Carter Man From Plains and 2004's The Manchurian Candidate.

North American distribution: Sony Pictures Classics

Int'l distribution: Sony Pictures Releasing International

Il Seme Della Discordia (It)

Dir: Pappi Corsicato

The story: Comic unofficial remake of Eric Rohmer's The Marquise Of O. A young woman has to explain her pregnancy to her husband on the day he discovers he is sterile.

The cast: Alessandro Gassman and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) take the lead roles. Gassman recently earned Italy's David Di Donatello award for best supporting actor for his role as Nanni Moretti's brother in Quiet Chaos. The cast also includes A Perfect Day's Isabella Ferrari.

The buzz: This film from Neapolitan director Corsicato provides the comedy relief in this year's competition; he was last in competition in Venice with The Vesuvians. Rome-based Rodeo Drive produces, and Medusa is opening the film in Italy.

Int'l sales: Rodeo Drive, (39) 45 44 97 67/8

Teza (Ethiopia-Ger-Fr)

Dir: Haile Gerima

The story: Teza charts the life of a young Ethiopian from his student days in 1970s West Germany, to his return to his native village at the age of 60.

The cast: Aron Arefe, who appeared in Yehdego Abeselom's 13 Months Of Sunshine, stars with Abiye Tedla and Takelech Beyene.

The buzz: This is the first time in Venice competition for US-based Ethopian film-maker Haile Gerima. He was honoured at Locarno in 1976 for Harvest: 3,000 Years (Mirt Sost Shi Amit) which took the Silver Leopard. In Berlin he picked up the Fipresci award in 1983 for Ashes And Embers, and his Sankofa appeared there in competition in 1993.

Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 2 215 39 7090

Vegas: Based On A True Story (US)

Dir: Amir Naderi

The story: A compulsive gambler and his long-suffering wife who live on outskirts of Las Vegas are made an offer by a stranger which tests how far they are prepared to go.

The cast: Mark Greenfield, Nancy La Scala and Zach Thomas in their first starring roles.

The buzz: Iranian writer-director-photographer Amir Naderi's fifth US feature claims to be an intense tale about money and obsession based on true-life stories told to the director during his stay in Sin City. It marks his third trip to Venice after The Runner (Davandeh) in 1985 (in the Venezia Speciali section) and Manhattan By Numbers in 1993 (Windows On Images). His A, B, C... Manhattan was screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 1997.

Int'l sales: Cinetic Media, (1) 212 204 7979

The Wrestler (US)

Dir: Darren Aronofsky

The story: A former pro wrestler, now on the amateur circuit, seeks one final showdown with his arch-rival.

The cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei.

The buzz: Two years after premiering The Fountain, Aronofsky returns to the Lido with a tale of courage and transformation that has sparked talk of possible awards for Rourke. At press time, rights were available in North America, Spain, Australia, Scandinavia, Japan and Latin America.

North American rights: CAA

Int'l sales: Wild Bunch, (33) 1 53 01 50 25

The Sky Crawlers (Jap)

Dir: Mamoru Oshii

The story: Based on the best-selling novel by Hiroshi Mori, this animated film centres on teenage pilots who are raised to engage in aerial battles over Europe for the entertainment of adults.

The cast: An A-list Japanese voice cast is headed by Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Ryo Kase (Letters From Iwo Jima).

The buzz: Oshii's Innocence was the first animated Japanese film to compete for the Palme d'Or and he returns to the Lido a year after his Tachigui: The Amazing Lives Of The Fast Food Grifters screened in the Horizons sidebar in 2006. Oshii explores new emotional depths in the film which also boasts Production I.G's CG wizardry.

Int'l sales: Nippon Television Network Corp, (81) 3 6215 2882

Il Papa Di Giovanna (It)

Dir: Pupi Avati

The story: Set in the 1930s and 1940s, Il Papa is the story of an artist who is dedicated to his daughter; but tragedy ensues when she commits murder.

The cast: Silvio Orlando (Quiet Chaos, The Caiman), Alba Rohrwacher (Days And Clouds, My Brother's An Only Child) and Francesca Neri star.

The buzz: The film has the most downbeat subject matter of the Italian entries, however Marco Mueller describes it as the 'zenith' of Avati's career. The director has only once been in competition in Venice, with 2005's La Seconda Notte Di Nozze. He served on the jury in 1989. Medusa distributes.

Int'l sales: DueA, (39) 06 321 4851; Medusa, (39) 06 663 901


35 Rhums (Fr)

Dir: Claire Denis

The story: Drama about the relationship between a father and his adult daughter.

The cast: Eriq Ebouaney stars with Gregoire Colin and Alex Descas. Ebouaney has moved between English-language action films such as Kingdom Of Heaven, Hitman and Transporter 3, and French work including Crimson Rivers 2: Angels Of The Apocalypse, this year's Ca$h and the upcoming Les Zones Turquoises. Colin was seen recently in Catherine Breillat's Sex Is Comedy and Denis' L'Intrus, which also featured Descas.

The buzz: The horror-themed film marks a departure for Denis who also has another film out this year, White Material. She has appeared in Venice with L'Intrus in 2004.

Int'l sales: Elle Driver, (33) 56 43 67 35

Encarnacao Do Demonio (Braz)

Dir: Jose Mojica Marins

The story: After 40 years in jail, a man is released from prison and goes in search of the woman who can give him the perfect child.

The cast: Besides Marins, who plays the lead, the highlight is Brazilian cinema veteran Jece Valadao, in his last film before his death in 2006. Helena Ignez, the muse of 1970s B-movies, also stars.

The buzz: This is the third part in the Coffin Joe trash- horror trilogy and closes the story that began with At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963) and This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967). Coffin Joe, Marins' alter ego, is a cult character that has become part of the popular imagination in Brazil. A documentary that examines Marins' life and his works, Coffin Joe: The Strange World Of Jose Mojica Marins, won the special jury prize at the 2001 Sundance film festival.

Int'l sales: Gullane Filmes, Manuela Mandler,

Les Plages D'Agnes (Fr)

Dir: Agnes Varda

The story: Varda turns the spotlight on herself, in this autobiographical documentary feature.

The buzz: 80-year-old Varda was tipped for a spot in Cannes with Les Plages D'Agnes but the film was reportedly not ready. 'I wanted to invent a genre of story-collage; an autodocumentary, an illustrated filmography and moments of fantasy treated in fiction,' she says of the film.

Int'l sales: Roissy Films, (33) 1 53 53 50 50

Shirin (Iran)

Dir: Abbas Kiarostami

The story: Based on a Persian myth about unrequited love.

The cast: Juliette Binoche stars alongside Iranian actor Mahnaz Afshar and award-winning actress and director Niki Karimi, whose 2001 directorial debut To Have Or Not To Have was produced by Kiarostami and who served on the Cannes jury in 2007.

The buzz: Festival favourite Kiarostami sat on the Venice jury in 1995 and returned in 1999 with Grand Special Jury Prize winner The Wind Will Carry Us which also won the CinemAvvenire award, Fipresci prize and Ocic award. Besides a segment of the compilation Chacun Son Cinema for Cannes in 2007, his most recent film was one third of the trilogy Tickets, which premiered at Berlin in 2005.

Int'l sales: TBC

Vinyan (Fr-UK-Bel)

Dir: Fabrice du Welz

The story: A couple lose their son in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Searching for him, they find a nightmare community ruled by children.

The cast: Emmanuelle Beart is joined by Rufus Sewell and Julie Dreyfus. Beart is a huge star in France and here will speak English along with UK actor Sewell (The Holiday). Dreyfus also stars in Tokyo, the triptych by Leos Carax, Bong Joon-ho and Michel Gondry which screened at Cannes.

The buzz: Du Welz burst on the scene at Cannes in 2004 with Calvaire. Vinyan has been a long-gestating project that has a lot of buzz surrounding it. This is his first film to screen at Venice.

Int'l sales: Wild Bunch, (33) 1 53 01 50 20

Burn After Reading (US) OPENING FILM

Dirs: Joel and Ethan Coen

The story: Comedy-thriller about the memoirs of a sacked CIA analyst that fall into the hands of a pair of opportunistic fitness centre employees. Chaos ensues.

The cast: A stellar line-up includes Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand.

The buzz: The Coens are on a roll following their triple-Oscar win this year for No Country For Old Men and bring a powerhouse ensemble for their first return to the Lido since 2003's Intolerable Cruelty.

Int'l sales: Focus Features International, (44) 20 7307 1370

Puccini E La Fanciulla

Dir: Paolo Benvenuti

The story: Drama set during the four months composer Giacomo Puccini wrote La Fanciulla Del West opera. At the same time, his wife accuses a housemaid of being her husband's lover, prompting the maid to commit suicide.

The cast: Unknowns, newcomers and a musician make up the cast.

The buzz: Benvenuti returns to Venice's official selection after Segreti Di Stato competed in 2003.

Int'l sales: Giampaolo Smiraglia, (39) 392 7247116.