This year's Venice Film Festival will tackle topics from the financial crisis to drone warfare, and feature performances from Willem Dafoe, Al Pacino, Jennifer Aniston and Ethan Hawke.
Organizers on Thursday announced a 20-strong competition lineup that includes Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani's subprime-mortgage drama "99 Homes," with Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern, and New Zealand-born filmmaker Andrew Niccol's "The Good Kill," starring Hawke as a dissatisfied drone operator.
Nineteen of the 20 films are world premieres, with one international premiere with films from Italy, France, the U.S. and the UK.
There is a strong American presence, both behind the camera and onscreen, among the films in the running for the Golden Lion. They include David Gordon Green's Texan drama "Manglehorn" starring Pacino and Holly Hunter; Abel Ferrara's "Pasolini," featuring Dafoe as taboo-breaking Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini; and Italian director Saverio Costanzo's "Hungry Hearts," a suspenseful drama set in New York starring Adam Driver.
The festival, which mixes big-name directors and arty auteurs with the work of exciting newcomers, also includes "The Cut," a drama by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin starring Tahar Rahim; Swedish director Roy Andersson's "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence"; and "The Postman's White Knights" by Russia's Andrei Konchalovsky.
Documentary-maker Joshua Oppenheimer competes with "The Look of Silence," a sequel to his powerful investigation of Indonesian political violence, "The Act of Killing."
Films from France, Italy, China, Japan, Turkey and Iran round out the competition lineup.
Pacino appears again at the festival, as an aging actor in Barry Levinson's "The Humbling," adapted from a Philip Roth novel. It is among the "out of competition" entries which are not contestants for the Golden Lion.
The eclectic out-of-competition roster also includes Peter Bogdanovich's Broadway comedy "She's Funny That Way," starring Imogen Poots, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson; Lisa Cholodenko's Maine-set drama "Olive Kitteridge," with Frances McDormand and Bill Murray; actor-turned-director James Franco's adaptation of William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury"; and Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac Volume II."
The 71st Venice Film Festival opens Aug. 27 with the world premiere of Alejandro Inarritu's "Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," starring former "Batman" Michael Keaton as an actor struggling to get beyond a famous superhero role.
The festival runs to Sept. 6, when a jury led by composer Alexandre Desplat awards the Golden Lion for best film and seven other prizes.
Go here for the lineup.