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VENICE WATCH: Empty chairs for imprisoned filmmakers; Korean director backs ferry families

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VENICE, Italy - VENICE, Italy — The Venice Film Festival is bringing 11 days of red-carpet premieres, innovative movies and Hollywood glamour to the Italian city. Here's what has been catching the eye of The Associated Press:

FESTIVAL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR IMPRISONED FILMMAKERS

There were two empty chairs at Wednesday's news conference to introduce the jurors who will be handing out the festival's coveted Golden Lion and other prizes.

Festival director Alberto Barbera said the seats were left vacant to draw attention to the incarceration of filmmakers Mahnaz Mohammadi and Oleg Sentsov.

Mohammadi, a director and women's-rights activist in Iran, was arrested in June and sentenced to five years in prison for anti-state propaganda and offences against national security.

Sentsov, a Ukrainian who opposed Moscow's takeover of Crimea, was arrested in Russia in May on suspicion of plotting terrorist acts and is in prison awaiting trial. Filmmakers including Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have called for his release.

Barbera said an empty chair "serves to point out the absence of a filmmaker who is in prison for political reasons. Unfortunately, this still happens all too frequently."

French film composer Alexandre Desplat leads a jury that includes British actor Tim Roth, Chinese actress Joan Chen and U.S. novelist Jhumpa Lahiri. Prize-winners will be announced on Sept. 6, the final day of the festival.

KOREAN DIRECTOR BACKS FERRY DISASTER FAMILIES

Always-provocative South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk wore his message on his chest at a news conference to promote his new film "One on One."

Kim wore a black shirt emblazoned with the words "The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol" — in support, he said, of relatives of the 300 people, most of them high-school students, who died in a ferry disaster in April.

The families are demanding an independent inquiry into the disaster, and one father went on hunger strike until he was hospitalized.

Kim said the father's act had a parallel in his own movie, in which the suspects in a brutal rape and murder are subjected to grisly torture by a gang of costumed avengers.

Kim said the father had made a peaceful sacrifice for his cause.

"My characters," he said through an interpreter, "are doing it in a very violent way."

That will be no surprise to those who watched Kim's past films, including "Pieta" — a brutal story of revenge and redemption that won the top prize in Venice in 2012 — and the castration-horror shocker "Moebius."

"I wanted to deal with the oppression that has been put upon poor people, ordinary people's shoulders," Kim said.

"I wanted to find a way to fight violence with violence."

—By Jill Lawless, http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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