Venice Announces Star Lineup but Just Two Films by Women

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Stars including Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt and Scarlett Johansson will attend this year’s Venice Film Festival, organizers said Thursday, with 21 films vying for the Lion d’Or although only two by women made the cut.

“Numerous films this year deal with the theme of the feminine condition in the world which, even when directed by men, reveal a new sensitivity, proof that the scandals of recent years have left their mark on our culture,” Mostra director Alberto Barbera said as he presented the lineup in Rome.

The festival was criticized last year for selecting just one film directed by a woman, and this year the number has doubled.

Saudi Arabia’s Haifaa al-Mansour will screen “The Perfect Candidate” about a female doctor trying to run in local elections in the conservative kingdom and Australian comedy “Babyteeth” by Shannon Murphy is also competing.

The 76th Venice festival opens on August 28 with Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth”, featuring French stars Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche as well as Ethan Hawke.

The film tells the tale of a French cinema star whose decision to publish her memoirs prompts a mother-daughter reunion which turns fiery.

Many US stars and big Hollywood productions feature at the festival, seen by many as a springboard for Oscar success.

Brad Pitt stars in the highly-anticipated “Ada Astra”, a science fiction film directed by James Gray about an astronaut travelling the solar system in search of his father.

Robert de Niro will attend the premier of “Joker”, directed by Todd Phillips and tracing the origins of Batman’s famous enemy, with the grimacing superclown played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” will also be shown, a thriller about the Panama Papers investigation starring Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep.

Controversially, the festival will also show Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski’s “J’accuse” about France’s 19th century Dreyfus scandal, starring Jean Dujardin.

Polanski fled to France in 1978 after admitting the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in the U.S.

The 85-year-old has been a fugitive ever since from the US justice system, despite repeated attempts to have him extradited.

The festival closes on September 7 with Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi’s “The Burnt Orange Heresy” starring Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland, screened out of competition.

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