Wim Wenders became the latest director to join a chorus ofvoices at the Venice Film Festival condemning the Bush administration, during aweek which has twice seen the Biennale officially react to events developing onthe world stage.

"As a Christian, I am deeply troubled by the acts of theBush administration," said Wenders, whose latest film, Land of Plenty,is screening in competition in Venice. "The US's official reaction to September11 made things worse. It created more terrorists than ever before," he said.

Wenders was speaking at a press conference where he receivedthe 5th Robert Bresson prize, awarded to Venice's most spirituallysignificant film by Italy's Ente dello Spettacolo in collaboration with RaiCinema and Medusa.

Earlier in the festival, Jonathan Demme also spoke outagainst US president George Bush's policies.

Demme, whose thriller, The ManchurianCandidate with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, is screeningout-of-competition, told journalists he felt that America "is in a lot of troublenow."

Asked about the parallels between his film andpresent-day America, Demme said: "Speaking as an American, I feel like ourleaders have taken us in a really bad direction. I feel like our currentleaders really want to own the world'if we own the whole world we don't have toworry about being attacked any more."

Tim Robbins, who was in Venice to present his low-budgetdigital film Embedded, about the Iraq war, told journalists thatAmericans "are fed up."

"They know that they are being lied to," hesaid. "The last nine months, there has been a reaction to the deceptionthat lead us into war."

Meanwhile, the Biennale has twice reacted officially toevents developing on the world stage. Organisers askedfor one minute's silence ahead of gala screenings on September 3 and 4 tocommemorate the victims of the Russian school tragedy.

One of the most talked-about films of the Orizzonti sidebarhas been The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, Pirjo Honkasalo's documentary aboutthe effects that the war in Chechnya has on children. The film focuses onchildren who are enrolled in a military school for Russian orphans and on amother as she brings up 63 Chechen orphans.

When news broke out during the festival of the kidnapping inIraq of two Italian humanitarian aid workers, Honkasalo joined Biennalepresident Davide Croff and Italian director Giuliano Montaldo on the redcarpet, where they publicly appealed for the hostages' release.

"Certain in the knowledge that we are representing thefeelings of anguish and solidarity of the cinema world, we appeal for therelease of the two volunteers and other hostages whose lives are presently indanger," Venice organisers later said in a statement.

In the meantime, while a number of industry figures flew outto the Toronto Film Festival mid-week, Hollywood stars were still flocking tothe Lido.

Guests who flew into the Venice Film Festival for the firsttime included Mia Farrow, who was on the Lido with her son Seamus to raisefunds for Unicef's program for Eritrean children.

Also in Venice for the first time was Hollywood legendLauren Bacall, who received an unprecedented standing ovation at the pressconference for her competition film Birth, which stars Nicole Kidman.

With the festival's jury set to announce their prizes on Saturdayevening, critics were hedging bets on Thursday on potential winners.

At press time, top contenders for the Golden Lion prize werebelieved to include Gianni Amelio's The House Keys, about the touchingrelationship between a father and his disabled 15 year-old son. (The Italiandirector won Venice's top prize for his last film, 1998's The Way TheyLaughed).

Also in the running for the Golden Lion are Mike Leigh's VeraDrake, with lead actress Imelda Staunton tipped for the Volpi best actressprize, Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside, and Korea's late entry, Kim Ki-duk's 3 Iron(Binjip).