American filmmakers dominate the lineup of this year's Venice Film Festival, where George Clooney and four others will be competing for the Golden Lion, while Madonna, Al Pacino and Steven Soderbergh will premiere their latest directorial efforts.
The strong lineup also includes Roman Polanski's "Carnage," an adaptation of the Broadway show "God of Carnage" featuring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz; David Cronenberg's take on psychoanalysis "A Dangerous Method," featuring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender; and "Shame," a drama by British director Steve McQueen featuring Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.
All 22 movies in competition at the world's oldest festival are world premieres, organizers said Thursday. One of the 22 titles was kept secret and will be announced in coming weeks.
"We have looked for and strengthened a relationship with American cinema each year," said festival director Marco Mueller. However, he stressed that the guidelines for selecting the movies were just "to take beautiful movies, movies that would make one think and dream."
He cited Clooney's political drama "The Ides of March" as an example of a "sharp film that takes a look at today with a critical eye." The film about corruption and idealism in American politics, which stars Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, will open the festival on Aug. 31.
Other American movies in competition include end-of-the-world film "4:44 Last Day on Earth" by Abel Ferrara; "Dark Horse" starring Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken and directed by Todd Solondz; "Killer Joe," a black comedy by William Friedkin starring Matthew McConaughey in the title role; and the second feature film by Ami Canaan Mann, "Texas Killing Fields," a murder drama featuring Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain.
Also in competition are a spy movie based on John le Carre's best-seller "Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy" starring Oscar winner Colin Firth; "Himizu," based on a manga comic-book; and "Poulet Aux Prunes" (literally translated as "Chicken with Plums") co-directed by Marjane Satrapi, the author of comic book and Oscar-nominated film "Persepolis," and Vincent Paronnaud.
Chastain, who had previously starred in "The Tree of Life," also appears in Pacino's "Wilde Salome," an exploration of Oscar Wilde's work that combines documentary and film, much like Pacino did in his previous "Looking for Richard."
In addition to the five films competing for the top prize, seven American movies are to be shown in side events. They include the Pacino movie and works by Jonathan Demme, James Franco and Whit Stillman.
The lineup suggests a star-studded red carpet, though Mueller would not say which stars will attend the festival.
Among the most highly-anticipated events is Madonna's second feature film, the U.K. production "W.E." The movie intercuts between the romance of a modern woman (Abbie Cornish) and the relationship of American socialite Wallis Simpson and Britain's King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne for love in the 1930s.
The festival runs through Sept. 10. The jury awarding the Golden Lion and other official prizes is headed by American director Darren Aronofsky.
Organizers said it is the first time since World War II that all feature films in the festival's three official events — in competition, out of competition and the "Horizons" avant-garde section — are world premieres.