European films feature strongly in selection

ROME — The Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week has unveiled its lineup featuring 10 world preems with a largely Eurocentric focus, complemented by two topical Iranian works, and one from South Korea.

Opening the 24th edition of the independently run Lido section dedicated to first works will be Swedish sci-fi animation pic “Metropia” by tyro helmer Tarik Saleh, a former graffiti artist and founder of Stockholm’s ultra-indie Atmo Media Network shingle.

Set in an imaginary post-Orwellian 2024, menaced by “a dangerous shampoo seeping into people’s thoughts,” as section topper Francesco Di Pace put it, the eclectic English-language toon, bowing out-of-competition, is voiced by Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Udo Kier and Stellan Skarsgard.

Sweden, which is making a strong showing, will also be repped in the Lido crix selection by another Atmo production, Erik Gandini’s hot-button docu “Videocracy” on Silvio Berlusconi’s launch of trashy TV in Italy and its deeply degrading effect on the country’s moral and political fabric.

“Videocracy” is preeming in Venice as a special event in tandem with the Lido’s other independent section, the Venice Days, prior to also unspooling in Toronto.

The seven first works in the Lido crix week competish are: Seoul-set “Cafe Noir” by South Korean critic-turned-helmer Chung Sung-il; “A Rational Solution” by Sweden’s Jorgen Bergmark, who collaborated with Bent Hamer on “Kitchen Stories”; Gaul’s “Domaine” by Patric Chiha about a teenage boy who becomes entangled with his aunt, played by Beatrice Dalle; Italy’s “Good Morning Aman,” about multi-ethnic Rome, by Italy’s Claudio Noce; Gogol-inspired “Kakraki” from Russia’s Ilya Demichev; Ireland-set sibling drama “Foxes” from Czech helmer Mira Fornay; and “Tehran,” a potentially controversial docu by Nader T. Homayoun about that city’s underbelly depicting such scourges as a trade in newborn babies and prostitutes in parks.

The closer, out of competition, will be “Chaleh” by Ali Karim, a drama also hailing from Iran, about an old man scamming for a living on the outskirts of an earthquake-stricken city. Pic was praised by Di Pace as transcending the conventions of most recent Iranian cinema.

Di Pace ascribed the absence of Yank pics in part to what he called “a cookie-cutter tendency in young American cinema,” but also to the fact that Toronto, whose dates dovetail with Venice, is demanding world preem exclusivity.

Venice Critics’ Week pics will not be judged by a jury, just by votes cast by festgoers. The top prize is worth Euros 5,000 ($7,100), provided by Venice’s Veneto region.

All Critics’ Week entries will compete alongside titles in the Official Selection for the fest’s Golden Lion of the Future, worth $100,000.

The Venice Film Festival runs Aug. 2- Sept. 12. The Lido’s official lineup will be announced July 30.

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