THE world's oldest film festival kicked off in Venice on Wednesday with plenty of Hollywood stars and top film makers in attendance.

However, once again, a lack of female directors and the inclusion of controversial names have drawn criticism.

More fans are billing Brad Pitt's space adventure, Joaquin Phoenix's role as The Joker, a star-studded drama based on the Panama Papers expose and a breakup story as highlights of the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, held on the Lagoon city's  Lido Island.

After a few years on the wane, the festival is now seen as a launchpad for award season success, having premiered La La Land, Gravity and Roma which triumphed at the Oscars.

But a time of the Metoo movement, the presence of only two female directors among 21 in the running for the top Golden Lion prize and the inclusion in competition of Roman Polanski's latest film has raised questions.

Polanski in 1977 pleaded guilty on having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles.

The French polish director, 86, fled the United States for fear his his deal with prosecutors would be overruled and he would get a lengthy prison term. He now lives in Europe.

The Oscar-winning director was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for violating a conduct code it adopted in 2018, following hundreds of accusations of sexual harassment or assault against figures in the entertainment industry.

''I'm not a judge. I'm a film critic. When I see a film which is a really good one, I don't have any doubt to invite the film to the festival,'' festival director Alberto Barbera said.

''There will be people who don't share the same opinion as mine but but I don't care too much in the sense that, I like the movies , the only criteria i can use selecting a film is the quality or the film itself, and I don't think that any other concerns, should enter into the selection process.''

Polanski's  An Officer and a  Spy drama is about the the 19th century Drefus affair and Barbera called it one of his best movies so far. ''Polanski is one the last masters of the European cinema,'' he added. [Reuters]


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