Baaria: Tornatore’s Film Opens 2009 Venice Film Fest

The 66th edition of the Venice Film Festival will kick off with Giuseppe Tornatore’s Sicilian epic “Baaria,” marking the first time in two decades that the event begins with an Italian film.

“Baaria” (Sicilian slang for Bagheria), a $30 million film spanning three generations in Tornatore’s native Sicilian village of Bagheria, will be in competition.  The movie boasts the most expensive Italian production in recent years.

Produced by Medusa and Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications, “Baaria” was shot on a Tunisian set in Ben Arous, outside the city of Tunis. The large ensemble includes Monica Bellucci, Michele Placido, Raoul Bova, Luigi Lo Cascio, Laura Chiatti and Donatella Finocchiaro. Newcomers Francesco Scianna and Margareth Made are play the leads.

Tornatore’s most ambitious project to date is partly autobiographical. “Baaria” has been described by him as more personal than his 1990 foreign Oscar-winner “Cinema Paradiso.”

“Baaria” will launch with a gala screening on the Lido Sept. 2 and bow on Italian screens September 25.  Summit Intl. is handling international sales.

The Venice Film Festival runs September 2-12.