Despite rumors of demise due to budget troubles, the 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival opened strong with big names and controversial themes. The festival debuted today with the controversial 9/11 drama The Reluctant Fundamentalist, directed by New York-based Indian director Mira Nair, and starring Liev Schreiber (pictured above with girlfriend Naomi Watts), British-Pakistani actor and rapper Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson (pictured below).

Also showing at the Venice Film Festival is Magnolia director Paul Thomas Anderson's anticipated The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which is rumored to be inspired by the life of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. Other promising films in the running for the Golden Lion award include To The Wonder by Terrence Malick (The Tree Of Life), starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem, and Spring Breakers from Harmony Korine (Gummo) featuring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson.

Among the esteemed attendees were "The Artist Is Present" performance guru Marina Abramovic; Grand Prix-winner of the Cannes Film Festival 2012 Matteo Garrone, director of Reality; French model and Arbitrage actress Laetitia Casta (pictured above with director Michael Mann); and Polish Paris With Love actress Kasia Smutniak, the godmother of the 69th Venice Film Festival (pictured below).

The 69th Film Festival runs until September 8. See the full slideshow here.

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