Director Denis Villeneuve was at all the top film festivals around the globe, including Cannes, Toronto, and Venice. But Venice is a special place.

Villeneuve stated, “It’s certainly the most elegant.”

Perhaps more important, it has also given him “a lot luck in the past.” He was nominated for Oscars for “Incendies,” his film from 2010, and “Arrival” the premiere of 2016.

No surprise that he chose Venice to release his most ambitious film, “Dune,” a science-fiction adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic with an all star cast including Timothee Chalamet.

“Dune” is one of many high-profile films coming to the 78th Venice International Film Festival. It begins Wednesday on Lido with new films by acclaimed directors Jane Campion and Pedro Almodovar. A roster of A-list celebrities such as Penelope Cruz and Ben Affleck are expected to grace the famous red carpet outside Palazzo del Cinema.

Venice, which was the only major festival held in person last summer, is launching a new fall festival season. It’s not quite normal, but it’s closer than last year. Telluride follows on September 2, just before the Toronto International Film Festival begins on Sept. 9.

Under the leadership of Alberto Barbera, Venice also has reestablished itself in the top launching ground for Oscar hopefuls and has hosted the world premieres of eventual best pictures winners such as “Birdman”, “Spotlight,” and “The Shape of Water.”

This year could be no different. Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” is one of 21 contenders for the Golden Lion. It is based on a 1925 novel that tells the story of two brothers from Montana (Benedict Cumberbatch & Jesse Plemons), who meet a widow (Dunst). Campion’s debut feature since 2009 is a bit of an emotional homecoming. Her Janet Frame biopic “An Angel at My Table”, won the festival’s runner-up award in 1990.

Schrader’s film “The Card Counter”, starring Isaac, a former military interrogator who spends his time playing poker in seedy casinos, is also up for the prize. Schrader was once a Cannes staple, but he stated that they stopped inviting him for unknown reasons.

“When this happened, I thought, “Why even flirt with being disqualified by Cannes?” Schrader stated, “Let’s just get to Venice.” “Venice has worked very hard to raise their profile and be at the beginning weekend of the award season. They have a head start that is unmatched.

Maggie Gyllenhaal will be presenting her first feature, “The Lost Daughter”, in competition. Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley star in the adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s 2008 novel about a divorcee who rediscovers herself after losing her children.

Gyllenhaal stated that it was difficult to find words to describe being in the same category with filmmakers such as Almodovar and Campion, whose film “Parallel Mothers”, opens the festival. It’s quite amazing.

Other hot films include Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer”, starring Kristen Stewart playing Princess Diana, Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God”, inspired by the director’s own coming of age story, and Ana Lily Amirpour’s “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” with Kate Hudson.

The jury that decides on the Golden Lion winner for this year is as prestigious and prestigious as the lineup. It is headed by Bong JoonHo, “Parasite” director and “Nomadland director Chloe Zhao, who are the most recent Academy Award winners for best picture and best director.

“Dune” will be debuting in competition alongside Edgar Wright’s film “Last Night in Soho”, a psychological horror featuring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Ridley Scott’s film “The Last Duel,” an epic set in 14th century England with Driver, Jodie Comer, Affleck and Matt Damon.

Roberto Benigni and Jamie Lee Curtis are both receiving the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement awards at the festival, while Scott will receive the inaugural Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker Award.

Many people are feeling emotional about the return of a physical film festival. However, it is premature to hope that the pandemic will end before this year’s edition. Venice is moving forward, but with cautions.

Barbera stated in a statement that the pandemic, which we believed had been eliminated by vaccines and time, is still resurfacing in periodic waves in disguise (the variants), and being strung together to form a chain that resists all our efforts to end it. “We know the responsibility we have and the expectations many people placed on this first festival.

Gyllenhaal had a taste of festival life at Cannes earlier this year, when she was on the jury and found it inspiring.

She said, “It felt like a kind of explosion in freedom in terms just of logistics of being alive but also seeing all these movies.” Cannes was a great inspiration to me. We all went on fire after being on the jury.

Villenueve considers the debut of “Dune” at a Venice cinema palace to be a significant moment. His epic, which he has been dreaming of since he was a child, will be released in theaters on October 22nd and streamed simultaneously on HBO Max.

He said, “This idea to launch the movie in Venice was a way of underlining the fact that it should be seen at theaters in areas where it is safe.” “The film festival celebrates the big screen experience. To me, watching ‘Dune” in Venice is symbolic.

The festival continues through September 11.