Rome (AFP) - Offbeat American filmmakers the Coen Brothers were the surprise entry in the 2018 Venice Film festival line-up, unveiled Wednesday, making their new western a contender for the Golden Lion award.
"The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is competing for the coveted gong alongside 20 other films featuring a raft of Hollywood stars, including Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman and Willem Dafoe.
Starring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco and Liam Neeson, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" features six tales about the wild west narrated by Joel and Ethan Coen.
The movie is one of two westerns on show in Venice, with French director Jacques Audiard's "The Sisters Brothers" starring Joaquin Pheonix and Jake Gyllenhaal also up for the top prize.
It is also one of several films being shown in Venice to have been picked up by streaming service Netflix.
The star-studded festival begins on 29 August, kicking off with "First Man" -- the new film from Oscar-winning director of "La La Land" Damien Chazelle.
The film, which stars Canadian star Ryan Gosling, follows the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong in the years leading up to 1969, when he became the first man to walk on the moon.
- Orson Welles' unfinished film -
Not featured in the official selection, but tipped for Oscar success, US actor Bradley Cooper's directorial debut "A Star is Born", will also be shown on the glamorous Lido di Venezia.
Cooper stars in the film alongside US popstar Lady Gaga.
The two also wrote and recorded new songs for the film, the fourth remake of the entertainment industry romance classic.
One of the festival's most eagerly-awaited events will be the out-of-competition world premiere of Orson Welles' final and previously unfinished film, "The Other Side Of The Wind".
The movie remained in limbo for decades after initial shooting between 1970-76. At the time of Welles' death in 1985, it was far from finished, and a complex legal battle over ownership of the film -- left in a vault in Paris -- had already broken out.
The battle only came to an end in March 2017, when Netflix announced their distribution of the film, enabling a post-production team to finally finish it nearly half a century after shooting began.
The film is a satire of the passing of classic Hollywood filmmaking and the arrival of the American new wave in the 1970s.
Presiding over the jury this year is Guillermo del Toro, whose "The Shape of the Water" bagged the Golden Lion in 2017 before going on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
In April organisers announced they would be honouring Canadian director David Cronenberg with its Golden Lion prize for Lifetime Achievement.