Brit helmer takes jury reins at Venice fest

ROME — Helmer John Boorman will preside over the competition jury of the 61st annual Venice Film Festival.

The London-born Boorman, whose films have looked at concepts of civilization and justice, began his career as a documentarian in his home country. He went on to take director kudos at the Cannes Film Festival twice, in 1970 for “Leo the Last,” starring Marcello Mastroianni, and in 1998 for “The General,” the story of real-life Irish gangster Martin Cahill. His most recent work, “Country of My Skull,” explores the legacy of South African apartheid.

Boorman will vote alongside actors, directors, editors and producers from five countries.

Two jury members will hail from the U.S.: Spike Lee and actress Scarlett Johansson. The thesp returns to the Lido after making her splash debut last year with “Lost in Translation.”

Italians Mimmo Calopresti, helmer and social documentarian, and editor Pietro Scalia (who took the 1991 Oscar for his work on Oliver Stone’s “JFK”) also are on the panel.

The other jury members are German helmer Wolfgang Becker, whose fest fave “Good Bye, Lenin!” won multiple prizes in 2003; Dusan Makavejev, prolific director from Serbia-Montenegro; and Taiwanese actress-producer Xu Feng. Her career includes numerous perfs in 1970s kung-fu films and melodramas. She went on to produce Chen Kaige’s 1993 “Farewell, My Concubine,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

The new Venice Horizons section will have a single prize and French helmer Nicolas Philibert (“To Be and to Have” (2002)) will lead its jury.

American screenwriter and director Brian Helgeland, whose 1997 noir “L.A. Confidential” earned him an Oscar, and Fiorella Infascelli, Italian actress-scribe-director, will be the jury members.

Mike Figgis will preside over the Venice Digital section — a new sidebar intended to showcase features made with the latest digital technology. Figgis will be accompanied by Japanese producer Shozo Ichiyama, who produced Takeshi Kitano’s “Violent Cop” and Samira Makhmalbaf’s “The Blackboard.” French-Moroccan director Claire Simon is the final jury member.

The 61st Venice Festival of Cinema will run Sept. 1-11.

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