Profiles and sales information for the hottest titles in Venice, in competition and out of competition.

In Competition

Dir Takashi Miike
The director of cult favourites Audition and Ichi The Killer is working on his grandest scale yet with this “epic samurai bloodbath”. The film follows an elite group of samurai on a suicide mission to assassinate an evil lord. The UK’s Jeremy Thomas executive produced, alongside Toshiaki Nakazawa (Departures) and TV Asahi’s Takashi Hirajo. Miike, whose Zebraman and Zebraman 2 will also screen out of competition, is a Venice regular: 13 Assassins is his fifth title to play at the festival.
International sales: HanWay Films,

Dir Athina Rachel Tsangari
From US-educated Greek film-maker Athina Rachel Tsangari, Attenberg is a drama about a young girl raised by her architect father in an experimental city. Tsangari made her debut with the 2000 drama The Slow Business Of Going, and has since produced large-scale video work and was the associate producer on last year’s acclaimed Greek feature Dogtooth.
International sales: The Match Factory,

Dir Alex de la Iglesia
Carlos Areces and Antonio de la Torre star as circus clowns Javier and Sergio — both in love with the same woman — who are caught up in the carnage of the Spanish Civil War in this period comedy-drama. The film marks a return to a Spanish story for director Alex de la Iglesia after his 2008 UK-set detective drama The Oxford Murders.
International sales: Films Distribution,

Dir Richard J Lewis
Canadian author Mordecai Richler’s 1997 novel finally comes to the big screen via director Richard J Lewis and producer Robert Lantos. Paul Giamatti stars as the politically incorrect Barney, a Montreal-based man who recalls his three marriages; supporting cast includes Rachelle Lefevre, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Greenwood, Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman. It is notable the film will premiere in Venice instead of Toronto — where it will also screen — marking the first time a Canadian feature has been in competition at Venice since 1998.
International sales: Essential Entertainment,

BLACK SWAN (US) (Opening film)
Dir Darren Aronofsky
Expectations will be high on the Lido after Darren Aronofsky won the Golden Lion in 2008 with The Wrestler. The US auteur’s third film in a row to screen in Venice (The Fountain played in competition in 2006) is a psychological thriller set in the New York ballet scene. Advance word has coalesced around a supposedly scintillating performance from Natalie Portman as a ballerina who taps into her dark side for a daring new version of Swan Lake. Mila Kunis plays a rival dancer. Fox Searchlight holds worldwide rights.
Contact: Fox International

Dir Abdellatif Kechiche
Venice helped launch actor Kechiche’s international profile: it was here that his last film, Couscous (aka The Secret Of The Grain), premiered in 2007, winning the Special Jury and Fipresci awards. The Tunisian-born writer-director returns to the festival with a film based on the true-life case of an African woman brought to 19th-century France and put on display.
International sales: MK2,

Dir Tsui Hark
Acclaimed wuxia director Tsui Hark’s latest film sees Hong Kong star Andy Lau play Detective Dee, in an adaptation of Lin Qianyu’s Tang-dynasty-set mystery novel. Shot on mainland China, the film features fight choreography by Sammo Hung.
International sales: Huayi Brothers,

ESSENTIAL KILLING (Pol-Ireland-Nor-Hung)
Dir Jerzy Skolimowski
The latest from Skolimowski is a thriller almost entirely devoid of dialogue. Vincent Gallo, also in competition as a director with his PromisesWritten In Water, stars with Emmanuelle Seigner. The Polish director has appeared in several Venice sections, including 1985 when TheLightship won the special jury prize.
International sales: HanWay Films,

Dir Antony Cordier
This relationship drama charts the romantic entanglements of two couples in contemporary France. The cast — headed by Marina Fois, Roschdy Zem, Elodie Bouchez and Nicolas Duvauchelle — is a choice selection of some of France’s more established young talent. Antony Cordier’s last flim, the 2005 coming-of-age picture Cold Showers, was widely praised, earning a César nomination for best first film.
International sales: Wild Bunch,

Dir Carlo Mazzacurati
A tragicomic reprisal of Italy’s famed ‘Commedia Italiana’ comic genre, featuring Coppa Volpi winner Silvio Orlando along with Kasia Smutniak, Cristiana Capotondi and Stefania Sandrelli. Set in Tuscany, La Passione tracks the story of a past-his- prime director (Orlando) who sees a young, popular TV star as an opportunity to return to the director’s chair.
International sales: Fandango Portobello Sales,

Dir Ascanio Celestini
First-time film-maker Ascanio Celestini was the surprise Italian entry into competition with this film set around a mental institution, which was previously presented as a theatre piece. The film focuses on Nicolo, a young man living in an asylum whose observations reveal how life on the inside is similar to life outside. Maya Sansa stars.
International sales: Beta Cinema,

Dir Kelly Reichardt
Michelle Williams and Paul Dano star in this Western set on the Oregon trail in 1845. Three families are stranded on the high-plain desert after a mountain man leads them astray. When a native American crosses their path, the weary travellers are torn between their trust in a guide who has proved unreliable and a man who has always been seen as their natural enemy.
Worldwide sales: Cinetic Media,

MIRAL (US-Fr-It-Isr)
Dir Julian Schnabel
Julian Schnabel swept Cannes off its feet in 2007 with his heart-wrenching The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and returns to the Lido with this adaptation of La Strada Dei Fiori Di Miral by Palestine-born Rula Jebreal. The film traces the creation of Palestine through the stories of three women. Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbass, Willem Dafoe and Vanessa Redgrave star. Pathé holds international rights and The Weinstein Company will release in North America. Schnabel’s Before Night Falls won the grand special jury prize on the Lido in 2000.
International sales: Pathé,

Dir Tran Anh Hung
Pedigrees come aplenty with this project. It is directed by Venice and Cannes award-winning Vietnamese auteur Tran Anh Hung (The Scent OfGreen Papaya, Cyclo), is based on the acclaimed novel by Haruki Murakami, stars Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi and has a score by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. In an extra coup, the film-makers have secured rights to the original Beatles track for use in the film. It tells the story of a man who meets two very different women as a college student in Tokyo in 1969.
International sales: Fortissimo Films,

POST-MORTEM (Chile-Mex-Ger)
Dir Pablo Larrain
Following the critical success of his last film, 2008’s Tony Manero, Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s Post-Mortem is keenly anticipated. Like Tony Manero, it is set during the political tumult of 1970s Chile: it revolves around a fiftysomething man who works in a morgue during General Pinochet’s coup of 1973 and develops an obsession with his neighbour, a cabaret dancer.
International sales: Funny Balloons, /

Dir Francois Ozon
Festival favourite Ozon returns with his 12th feature, an adaptation of a play set in 1977 about a bourgeois family. The starry French cast includes Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Cécile De France, Fabrice Luchini and Jérémie Rénier. Potiche has already done a number of pre-sales for Wild Bunch, including Japan (Gaga), Italy (Bim) and Spain (Vertigo). Mars will release in France.
International sales: Wild Bunch,

Dir Vincent Gallo (US)
Gallo’s latest directorial offering is his first since 2003’s The Brown Bunny. Little is known about Promises Written In Water, which appears to centre on a terminally ill girl who asks a photographer to cremate her when she dies. He duly gets a job in a funeral home to gain experience for the task.
International sales: Gray Daisy Films,

Dir Monte Hellman
Reservoir Dogs executive producer Monte Hellman’s romantic thriller is about a film-maker who gets involved in a crime while shooting his latest project. Shannyn Sossamon and Dominique Swain star in the film.
International sales: eOne,

Dir Aleksei Fedorchenko
Russian director Fedorchenko’s 2005 documentary First On The Moon won Venice’s Horizons Documentary award. Aleksei’s second feature is a drama following a widower as he tries to find a burial spot for his wife in the area where they spent their honeymoon.
International sales: Memento Films International,

Dir Saverio Costanzo
Based on the bestseller by Italian physicist Paolo Giordano, The Solitude Of Primary Numbers delves into maths, love and shared trauma. The film features Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Marinelli and Isabella Rossellini.
International sales: Le Pacte,

Dir Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s first film in four years stars Stephen Dorff as an emotionally barren rock star who gets to know his daughter (Elle Fanning) during a stopover at Hollywood’s infamous Chateau Marmont hotel. Focus Features will release in North America and FFI handled international sales.
International sales: Focus Features International,

Dir Tom Tykwer
After high-concept English-language thriller The International, Three is a more small-scale venture for Tom Tykwer: a Berlin-set drama about the relationship troubles of a fortysomething couple. Tykwer’s The Princess and the Warrior premiered at the festival in 2000.
International sales: The Match Factory,

Dir Mario Martone
A 19th-century-set epic tracing the turmoil which led to Italy’s unification, We Believed follows three men from the south of Italy who ally with historical figure Giuseppe Mazzini, whose efforts led to the movement to unite Italy.
International sales: RAI Trade,

Out of Competition

Dir Stefano Incerti
Gomorrah and Il Divo actor Toni Servillo stars in this film about a man who is a Neapolitan prison accountant by day, a gambler by night. When he cannot cover a gambling debt, he takes the money from the jail.
International sales: Rai Trade,

Dir Casey Affleck
The younger Affleck’s directorial debut follows a year in the life of Joaquin Phoenix, the brooding actor who emerged from his late brother’s shadow to become one of the finest performers of his generation before turning his back on Hollywood to become a rapper. Magnolia Pictures holds worldwide rights and will release in North America on September 10.
International sales: Laird Adamson, Magnolia Pictures,

Dirs Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones
Martin Scorsese waxes lyrical about controversial director Elia Kazan and the influence his films such as On The Waterfront and East Of Eden had on his life. The film’s broader scope explores the effect on an emerging film-maker’s career of being exposed to the right films at the right time, and comprises clips, stills, readings from Kazan’s autobiography, and a videotaped interview conducted late in Kazan’s life. PBS holds US broadcast rights.
International sales: Mark Ankner, WME,

LOPE (Sp-Braz)
Dir Andrucha Waddington
Brazilian director Andrucha Waddington’s 16th-century epic stars rising talent Alberto Ammann (Cell 211) as famous Spanish playwright Lope De Vega, who is torn between two lovers and battling against traditional theatrical methods. The $20m film is backed by Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros, Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 and local producers Ikiru Films and El Toro Pictures. Luis Tosar, Antonio De La Torre and Leonor Watling star.
International sales: Wild Bunch,

(Midnight opening film)
Dir Robert Rodriguez
Venice’s guilty pleasure stars Danny Trejo as the wronged man in this blood-soaked revenge tale which also gives Trejo’s Heat cast mate Robert De Niro the chance to flex his muscles as a malign politician. Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan further enhance the midnight-opening film’s credentials. Hyde Park International handled sales and 20th Century Fox will release in North America.
International sales: Hyde Park, Mimi Steinbauer,

Dir John Turturro
John Turturro’s documentary tribute to the ‘Neapolitan Song’ (Canzone Napolitana) is being presented as “a trip to the world’s largest jukebox: Napoli”, and is a sort of Buena Vista Social Club shot in Naples. The film will feature popular musicians whose work falls in and outside the genre including Mina, Avion Travel, Pino Daniele, Nina Sastri, Spakka-Neapolis 55 and others.
International sales: Beta Film,

(Closing film)
Dir Julie Taymor
As a visual storyteller, Julie Taymor has few equals, and her audacious twist on Shakespeare’s story about a magician who presides over an enchanted island has set tongues wagging. She has switched the gender of the magician so Prospero is now Prospera, played by Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Touchstone will release through Buena Vista and Disney holds international rights. Mirren’s co-stars include Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou and Alan Cumming.
International sales: Icon International,

Dir Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck stars in his follow-up to his highly regarded Gone Baby Gone about a gang of robbers, the FBI agent who aims to bring them down, and a dangerous love interest. Thomas Tull, whose Legendary Pictures produced the heist thriller with GK Films for Warner Bros, recently told Screen International that he believed Affleck can go as far as he wants as a director. Venice audiences will be the first to judge for themselves. Warner Bros holds worldwide rights.
Worldwide distribution: Warner Bros

Dir Michele Placido
The story of true-life criminal Renato Vallanzasca, who is serving four consecutive life sentences. Kim Rossi Stewart, Filippo Timi and Paz Vega star in this crime adventure about a Milanese dandy who was born to commit felonies.
International sales: Fortissimo Films,


(Profiles by Wendy Mitchell, Chris Evans, Jeremy Kay, Sheri Jennings, Sarah Cooper and Ed Lawrenson)