The movie merchants of Venice face flak from the Tim Robbins tendency

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The Independent Online

The leading showbiz lights of the anti-globalisation movement descended on Venice this weekend, amid complaints that the world's oldest film festival has sold out to the Hollywood glamour industry.

The leading showbiz lights of the anti-globalisation movement descended on Venice this weekend, amid complaints that the world's oldest film festival has sold out to the Hollywood glamour industry.

Actor Tim Robbins and author Naomi Klein will tomorrow launch the Global Beach, an alternative "festival" down the road from the main event, which is expected to get the backing of actor-director Spike Lee and gay indie-punk star Gregg Araki.

Both Robbins and Klein are noted critics of Hollywood mores and of the failure of actors to criticise their corporate bosses.

They have become increasingly active in US politics and political film-making in recent years. Tim Robbins, in Venice with the British film Code 42 by Michael Winterbottom, has already used the main festival to make a thinly veiled attack on Hollywood actors who have failed to follow his critical stance on the war in Iraq.

Naomi Klein flew in yesterday morning to promote her film The Take, an account of a co-operative business set up by Argentine workers after the 2001 economic collapse, directed by radical Canadian journalist Avi Lewis.

Supporters of the Global Beach project caused disturbances at the premiere of The Terminal, directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, which opened the festival on Wednesday. Members of the group parked a car disguised as a pirate ship near the red carpet, a protest, one of them claimed, against "ostentatious show of Hollywood wealth and power".

There has been an unusually large number of American films, some of which - such as the Spielberg film - have already opened in the US.

Venice has also seen a deluge of Hollywood A-listers - Hanks, Tom Cruise and Robert De Niro among others - and to this extent the event has already been judged a success. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, appointed the current festival director, Marco Müller, specifically to steal the thunder of an anti-American Cannes and turn it into the premier Hollywood junket in Europe.

Yesterday saw the premieres of Finding Neverland, a new take on J M Barrie's Peter Pan starring Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp, and The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino. Shakespeare buff Pacino plays Shylock in director Michael Radford's film, which also stars Joseph Fiennes and Jeremy Irons.

De Niro arrives next week to promote his animated film Shark Tales, which will be screened in St Mark's Palazzo. But the film has attracted less publicity than the honorary Italian citizenship awarded him by Berlusconi last week.

A plan to give it to him at the festival has been scuppered by De Niro himself. A lobby of Italian-Americans, the Washington-based Sons of Italy, had tried hard to stop the Godfather star from receiving citizenship at all, claiming his mafia roles had damaged perceptions of Italian-Americans. It is said Berlusconi will have an uphill struggle placating them after such a gesture - initially perceived as a naked Venice Festival stunt.

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