The official poster of the 71st Venice International Film Festival (detail).
The official poster of the 71st Venice International Film Festival (detail). Photo by Simone Massi
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A Palestinian filmmaker’s debut feature film has been shortlisted for the Venice International Film Festival’s 29th Critics' Week.

The film, “Villa Touma,” is directed and self-produced by Suha Arraf, who wrote the screenplays for “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree,” which were directed (and co-written) by Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis.

The feature tells the story of three Christian sisters, during the early days of Israeli occupation, who live recluse in a Ramallah villa as though the world around them has not changed, until their orphan niece walks into their lives.

Joining Villa Touma in the shortlist are Iranian drama “Melbourne,” French entry “Terre Battue” ("40-Love"), German drama “The Council of Birds,” Serbian “No One’s Child,” Chinese noir “The Coffin in the Mountain,” and Vietnamese drama “Flapping in The Middle of Nowhere.” In addition, two Italian films, dramatic comdy “Arance e Martello” and documentary “Dancing With Maria,” are on the list.

The Critics' Week comprises films that are independently organized by a commission nominated by the National Union of Italian Film Critics (Sindacato Nazionale Critici Cinematografici Italiani, or SNCCI). The section is independent of and parallel to the festival’s official selection.

According to Variety entertainment news website, the category’s films will be judged by festival goers rather than a jury, and all entries will compete alongside titles in the official selection for the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion of the Future prize, worth $100,000.

The 71st Venice International Film Festival runs this year from August 27 to September 6. The official lineup of films to be screened this year will be announced on July 24.