I confess that when the press release unveiling this year's Venice Film Festival jury landed in my inbox today, it brought me up a little short -- I hadn't quite realized that the festival, which I'll be covering here at IC for the fourth consecutive year, is only a little over six weeks away. Yep, that's how close the fall festival season, and all the feverish awards talk it brings with it, is: enjoy the peace of summer while it lasts, folks.

That slightly sobering realization aside, the press release brought good news: in keeping with Venice's recently acquired reputation as perhaps the most adventurously programmed of the big three European festivals, this year's jury -- expanded this year from the usual seven members to nine -- is a suitably contemporary and eclectic gathering of artists. It was previously announced that Michael Mann (whose daughter, Ami, competed at the fest last year with "Texas Killing Fields") will preside over this year's Competition jury, marking the third year in a year in a row that an American director has had the honor: Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky precede him. But he's to be the only Yank at the table, with his fellow jurors coming from Britain, Israel, Argentina, Hong Kong, Serbia, France, Switzerland and, of course, Italy.

For many, the most familiar name on the list will be Samantha Morton, a twice Oscar-nominated actress who successfully branched out into directing with 2009's "The Unloved," winning a BAFTA for her efforts. That makes her one of two female filmmakers on the panel, with French-Swiss writer-director Ursula Meier a pleasingly fresh choice for the jury: still very much on the rise, she won a deserved prize at Berlin in February for her wonderful sophomore feature "Sister" (reviewed here).

Other filmmakers in the mix include Ari Folman ("Waltz With Bashir"), Pablo Trapero ("Carancho") and, representing the host country, Matteo Garrone ("Gomorrah"), fresh from winning his second Grand Prix at Cannes for "Reality." The most left-field selection, meanwhile, is revered performance artist Marina Abramovic, recently the subject of acclaimed documentary "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present." I'd love to sit on the jury's deliberations this year: who knows what she'll make of "Anna Karenina?"

Nothing's official yet, but Joe Wright's Tolstoy adaptation is widely predicted to premiere on the Lido. Ben Affleck's "Argo" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" are also in the conversation, though with that jury in particular, I'd count on looking further afield for the Golden Lion winner. The fun kicks off on August 29.

The full press release:

The selection has been made for the members of the International Jury for the Competition at the 69th Venice International Film Festival (29 August – 8 September 2012), with American director Michael Mann as president. The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Venice Biennale chaired by Paolo Baratta, upon the recommendation of the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto Barbera. The personalities selected to compose the Jury are:

  • Serbian artist and performer Marina Abramovic, who was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale
  • French actress and model Laetitia Casta, who worked for acclaimed directors such as Raoul Ruiz (Les âmes fortes, 2001), Patrice Leconte (Rue des plaisirs, 2002) and Tsai Ming-Liang (Visage, 2009). Casta received her first nomination at the César Awards for the interpretation of Brigitte Bardot in the movie Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)
  • Hong Kong producer and director Peter Ho-Sun Chan, a leading figure in the Asian film industry, who has been able to merge art and entertainment and has originally reinterpreted the traditional wuxia genre
  • Israeli director and screenwriter Ari Folman, author of Waltz with Bashir (2008) that won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Italian director Matteo Garrone, two-times winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for Gomorra (2008) and Reality (2012)
  • French/Swiss film-maker Ursula Meier, who received a Silver Bear Special Award at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival for her movie Sister
  • British actress Samantha Morton, who received two Academy Award nominations, one for Best Supporting Actress in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown (2000), and one for Best Actress in Jim Sheridan’s In America (2004)
  • Argentinian director and producer Pablo Trapero, who already participated at the Venice Film Festival, the first time in 1999 with his debut film Crane World (Mundo Grua), and then in 2004 with Rolling Family (Familia Rodante, 2004)

On the closing night of the Venice International Film Festival (September 8, 2012), the Venezia 69 International Jury will award the official prizes to the feature-length films in competition: the Golden Lion for Best Film, the Silver Lion for Best Director, the Special Jury Prize, the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor, the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress, the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor or Actress, the Award for Best Technical Contribution and the Award for Best Screenplay. 

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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