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Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will join Hollywood stars at the Venice film fest

ROME -- World-renowned Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will rub shoulders with cinema greats when his documentary on the refugee crisis debuts at this year's Venice Film Festival, organizers said Thursday.

Weiwei's "Human Flow" will be one of the 21 films competing for the top Golden Lion award, director Alberto Barbera said in a Rome press conference, describing the U.S.-German produced work as "quite extraordinary."

Barbera said migration was probably the dominating theme among the films selected for the festival, whose 74th edition runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.

Other notable films in competition include Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water," and George Clooney's "Suburbicon," based on an old script by the Coen brothers and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac.

Damon also leads in the festival's opening film "Downsizing," directed by Alexander Payne, alongside Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau. The August 30 premiere of the sci-fi satire about the shrinking of humans in a future overpopulated world was announced earlier this month.

In the out-of-competition category, "Loving Pablo" will see Javier Bardem starring as notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his real-life wife Penelope Cruz as the journalist who falls in love with him.

Several documentaries were also due to be unveiled, including works by Frederick Wiseman and Errol Morris — two masters of the genre — and "The Devil and Father Amorth," a study of the Vatican's most famous devil-chasing priest by "The Exorcist" director William Friedkin.

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