Cassavetes' vampire film among nine pics

ROME — The Venice Film Festival’s 27th Critics’ Week has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, including eight world preems, in which women directors feature prominently.

Sidebar will open with portmanteau pic “Water,” comprising seven shorts helmed by Israeli and Palestinian directors, about water as a primal source of life, conflict and collaboration.

Produced by Tel Aviv U, “Water” will bow internationally, out-of competition.

The closer, also out-of-competish, will be the world preem of U.S. helmer Xan Cassavetes’ “Kiss of the Damned,” about two beautiful French vampire sisters staying at a summer estate in Connecticut.

Produced by Alex Orlovsky (“Blue Valentine”) and Jen Gatien (“Holy Rollers”), “Kiss” stars French thesps Josephine de la Baume and Roxane Mesquida, as well as Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Rappaport, Riley Keough and Anna Mouglalis.

Scripted by Cassavetes, who is John Cassavetes’ daughter, pic draws from European vampire movies of the 1970s.

The other seven pics all play in competition. Italy will be repped by thesp-turned helmer Luigi Lo Cascio’s directorial debut “La citta ideale,” about a man who takes his ecological lifestyle to an extreme.

The strong European presence also comprises Swedish economic crisis drama “Eat Sleep Die,” helmed by Gabriela Pichler; Romanian existential drama “A Month in Thailand,” by Paul Negoescu; and sexually explicit Belgian entry “Welcome Home,” by Tom Heene.

Rounding out the selection are Turkish entry “Mold,” by Ali Aydin; Mexican drama “She Doesn’t Want to Sleep Alone,” by Natalia Beristain; and “Lotus,” by Chinese first-timer Liu Shu, about a young teacher and free spirit who epitomizes “the female condition in contempo China,” according to section topper Francesco Di Pace.

Venice Critics’ Week films will be judged by votes cast by festgoers rather than a jury. This year’s €5,000 ($6,000) audience award is sponsored by vintage art cinema distributor Raro Video.

All entries will compete alongside titles in the Official Selection for the fest’s Golden Lion of the Future, worth $100,000. Venice fest runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.

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