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Venice Critics’ Week Unveils Lineup

Europe, Chile, Africa feature prominently; U.S., Asia absent

ROME — The Venice Film Festival’s 28th Critics’ Week has unveiled its lineup of eight first works, including seven world preems, featuring fresh pics from Europe, Chile and Africa.

Sidebar will open with ambitious Italo animation drama “The Art of Happiness,” by Alessandro Rak, about a Neapolitan cab driver and former musician searching for spirituality as he drives the city’s garbage-strewn streets. Rare case of an Italo animation helmer making his feature film debut is produced by Luciano Stella and local shingle Mad Factory, and distributed by Istituto Luce Cinecitta.

The closer, also out-of-competish, will be the international launch of Chilean helmer Moises Sepulveda’s “Illiterate” (Las Analfabetas), about a woman who wants to keep her illiteracy a secret. She is played by Paulina Garcia who won best actress in Berlin for her role Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria.”

The other six pics all play in competition of the Lido section dedicated to discoveries headed by Italo film critic Francesco Di Pace. A seventh competition entry will be announced in a few weeks.

Chile, making a strong showing this year, is repped in the competish by “The Quispe Girls,” a Pinochet-era drama about three sisters living in Chile’s outback, helmed by Sebastian Sepulveda (no relation to Moises) and produced by Pablo Larrain’s Fabula.

Italy is repped by sophisticated comedy “Zoran, My Nephew the Idiot” by Matteo Oleotto, which is set in Italy and Slovenia, and is an Italo-Slovenian co-prod being sold internationally by Slingshotfilms.

The strong European contingent also comprises Slovenian school drama “Class Enemy” (pictured) by Rok Bicek, produced by Triglav Film, which is also selling internationally; and Swedish first feature “The Reunion” by Anna Odell, which is also school-related but shot in a more experimental mode.

Rounding out the selection are Moroccan novelist-turned-helmer Abdellah Taia’s Casablanca-set “Salvation Army,” based on his eponymous novel about growing up gay; and “White Shadow,” a drama about intolerance towards albinos in Tanzania, helmed by Noaz Deshe, who in based in Los Angeles and Berlin.  Ryan Gosling is executive producer on “White Shadow,” which is an Italy-Germany-Africa co-prod.

Venice Critics’ Week films will be judged by votes cast by festgoers rather than a jury.

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

For the second consecutive year the $6,500 audience award is sponsored by vintage art cinema distributor Raro Video.

Venice fest runs Aug. 28 to Sept. 8. The official selection lineup will be announced on July 25.

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