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September 2, 2009

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Venice Film Festival lands Moore's latest

IF there is one criteria for selection to the Venice Film Festival, it's a film's ability to captivate, the festival's director says.

That means no fidgeting in the audience.

"I think I never laughed or cried as much as I did for this year's selection," said festival director Marco Mueller, who raises the curtain today on the 66th Venice Film Festival, his sixth as director.

One of those chosen films is Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," his first Venice entry after winning the top prize twice in Cannes. Landing Moore's film is a coup for Venice.

"I think Michael has had a terrific time in Cannes. He needed a change. And we needed a different Michael Moore film. This one is incredibly symphonic," said Mueller, who has known Moore for 20 years and premiered 1999's "The Awful Truth," at the Locarno Film Festival when he was director there.

Much of Mueller's approach to luring films to the Venice Lido is personal.

Launching pad

He speaks seven languages fluently, including Chinese, which has long made him a bridge to the West for Asian film makers. He spends copious amounts of time viewing films, more than 2,000 a year, and making pitches for why Venice is the perfect launching pad for anything from Hollywood fare to art house talent, despite lacking a formal film market.

This year, the September 2-12 Venice film festival is a week later than usual, bumping up against the much-larger Toronto Film Festival, showing some 80 films in contrast to the more than 300 at the Toronto festival from September 10 to 19.

About 20 films making their world premieres at Venice will travel on to Toronto.

This year's Venice selection includes films from 32 countries, a record.

An Italian film opens the festival for the first time in 20 years. Giuseppe Tornatore, who won an Oscar in 1998 for "Cinema Paradiso," will premiere "Baaria," a film about life in a small town in his native Sicily.


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