‘Dust’ in the wind for Venice fest

Film reps first time since '94 a U.S. feature wasn't the opener

This article was amended on April 16, 2001.

ROME — While programmers of the Cannes Film Festival are scrambling to flesh out the lineup prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Venice fest topper Alberto Barbera is believed to have secured the world premiere of Milcho Manchevski’s “Dust” to open the event’s 58th edition, running Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

Selection of the $12.5 million Balkan Western, a British-German-Italian-Macedonian co-production, marks the first time since 1994 — when the curtain went up on Michael Radford’s “Il Postino” — that a major U.S. feature has not opened Venice. Recent openers have included “Saving Private Ryan,” “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Space Cowboys.”

However, high-profile studio fare will not be absent, with Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” from Warner locked in to make its European premiere at Venice in an out-of-competition slot, prior to Italian release in October.

While no official announcements regarding the Venice lineup will be made before the customary press conference July 29, sources indicate that “Dust,” which is completing post, was withdrawn from possible Cannes selection when Barbera screened the film and immediately issued an invitation to Venice.

Manchevski is understood to have favored a return to Venice, where he won the fest’s top prize, the Golden Lion, for his 1994 debut feature, “Before the Rain.” The director reportedly has opted for “Dust” to screen out of competition.

Set between present-day New York and the early 20th century during the first Balkan war, “Dust” is described as a violent, poetic ballad inspired by the American Western. Produced by Chris Auty, Vesna Jovanoska and Domenico Procacci, the English-language feature stars Joseph Fiennes, David Wenham, Adrian Lester, Anne Brochet, Rosemary Murphy and Nikolina Kujaca.

London-based Sales Co. is handling international rights, with distribution already tied up in the U.K., Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan and most key Latin American territories. Medusa will release the film in Italy in October on the heels of its Venice bow.