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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Venice film prize favours Europe
Michael Winterbottom
Winterbottom directed 24 Hour Party People
An international set of directors have been nominated for the top award at the Venice film festival, including Brits Michael Winterbottom and Oscar winner Christopher Hampton.

Judges have shortlisted 20 films which will compete for the Golden Lion prize at this year's festival, with a strong showing from European directors.

The festival opens on 27 August with a gala screening of Woody Allen's Anything Else, starring Jason Biggs and Danny DeVito, although it is not entered into competition.

Among the stars expected to attend the festival are George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Christina Ricci and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Last year's Golden Lion was won by the controversial and gritty film The Magdalene Sisters, about "fallen women" incarcerated by the Catholic Church in Ireland, from Scottish director Peter Mullan.

Films competing this year include Hampton's Imagining Argentina, which stars Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson, while Winterbottom's Code 46 features Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton.

Click here for Golden Lion shortlist

Hampton won a best screenplay Oscar in 1986 for Dangerous Liaisons, with other screenwriting credits including The Quiet American and Carrington, which won him a special jury prize in Cannes in 1995.

Winterbottom's directing credits include 24 Hour Party People and Jude.

Another contender this year is Oscar-nominated Mexican director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu with 21 Grams, starring Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.

Potential blockbusters

Inarritu was nominated for a best foreign language Academy Award in 2000 for Amores Perros.

Intolerable Cruelty
Clooney and Zeta Jones star in Intolerable Cruelty
Festival director Moritz de Hadeln said there had been a strong showing for European films which indicated "something extraordinary going on in European cinema".

Veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio, who was nominated for a Golden Lion in 1967 for La Cina Vicina, sees his movie Buongiorno, notte nominated in 2003.

And French director Jacques Doillon, partner of actress Jane Birkin, appears on the shortlist with Raja.

The out of competition films will be dominated by potential Hollywood blockbusters.

The Coen brothers return with Intolerable Cruelty, starring Clooney, Zeta Jones and Billy Bob Thornton, while Robert Rodriguez will debut Once Upon a Time in Mexico featuring Banderas and Johnny Depp.

Sir Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men will be presented by its lead actor Nicolas Cage, while Kidman, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris appear in Robert Benton's The Human Stain.

Films shortlisted for the Golden Lion

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