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Venice deliberates Golden lion

VENICE, Italy -- Two films -one Iranian and one French - are favourites to be awarded the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion prize.

In a poll of 15 newspaper and movie magazines Raye Makhfi" ("The Secret Ballot") and "Sauvage Innocence" ("Wild Innocence") were installed as front-runners ahead of 18 other films.

But jury leader Nanni Moretti, Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes festival this year, has given no hints, saying he believes the field is wide open.

"Sauvage Innocence," shot in black and white by director Philippe Garrel, is a story about a young movie director wanting to make a film about his ex-wife, who has died of a heroin overdose.

"Raye Makhfi" by Iranian director Babak Payami is the story of a voting box which falls from the sky on election day and was highly praised by both critics and audiences.

Should "Raye Makhfi" win it will be the second year in succession that an Iranian film has won the title. "Il Cerchio," won the prize last year. The jury has awarded the Golden Lion to the same country before but it hasn't happened since 1985.

The jury of seven will unveil its decision on Saturday night, having chosen from a field of 20 films in 11 languages.

Other films in the running include Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others," starring Nicole Kidman and produced by her ex-husband Tom Cruise, "Eden" by Israeli director Amos Gitai, "Monsoon Wedding" by India's Mira Nair and Briton Ken Loach's railway critique "The Navigators." The last time a French film won was in 1993 when Krzystof Kieslowski's "Trois Couleur Bleu" shared the top prize with Robert Altman's cult work "Short Cuts," but there will be no joint prize winners this year, the jury has said.

The jury -- made up of three film directors, two actresses, a producer and an author -- will also decide a Jury Grand Prix, a prize for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor, and the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress.

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