Sipro Scipione and Francesco Sframeli's Two Friends (Due Amici), a tale adapted from the theatre about two Sicilians who live on the outskirts of a large Northern Italian city, is the only Italian film selected for the Critics Week competition at this year's Venice Film Festival.

The competition line-up, selected by a panel of five Italian critics from the National Critics Union, will have "words" as its main theme and will feature both films that are centred around dialogue as well as pictures with hardly any dialogue at all.

Critics Week, which operates autonomously from the festival organisation, also includes An Honest Shopkeeper (Un Honnete Commercant), a film starring veteran French actor Philippe Noiret and directed by the writer of Une Liaison Pornographique, Philippe Blasband; Iranian director Nassere Refaie's The Exam (Emtehan) which tells the story of a group of women who are waiting in a university courtyard to take an entrance exam; and US director Dylan Kidd's Rodger Dodger, about a disillusioned playboy who tries to teach his naive nephew about New York night life. The picture's cast includes Campbell Scott, Jennifer Beals and Isabella Rossellini, who are expected to make an appearance on the Lido.

The other titles in the line-up are Russian director Aleksej Muradov's Zmej, which is set in the Gorbachev years and tells the story of a police officer in charge of state executions, Japan's Woman Of Water (Mizu No Onna) by Hidenori Sugimori and Taiwanese director Cheng Wen-Tang's Mon Huan Biu Luo.

This year, the Critics Week which runs from August 31st to September 7th, will also showcase John Cassavetes' newly restored debut feature, Shadows, which will be presented by his son, director Nick Cassavetes.

A special tribute will also be paid to late Italian neo-realist maestro Cesare Zavattini on the centenary of his birth, with a screening of Mario Camerini's 1936 comedy, I'll Give A Million, which was adapted from Zavattini's first screenplay.