Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during the Milano Med Forum 2009, in downtown Milan July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

The Venice Lido was abuzz Thursday over Videocracy, the documentary that takes a critical look at Italian media tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the influence of television on Italian culture.

Making its Italian premiere, the film at least temporarily overshadowed the high-wattage Venice festival, which got under way the previous evening. It screened twice Thursday, both times to a full house. Videocracy is a rare example of a film screening in two Venice sidebars: Venice Days and Critics' Week.

The film, whose trailer was banned by both Berlusconi's Mediaset and by state broadcaster RAI, was talked about in the Italian press for days before its premiere.

Director Erik Gandini, an Italian who lives in Sweden, where the film held its world premiere in August, said it was the kind of story that had to be told on the big screen.

It is about the power of images on the screen, and it had to be told using a similar medium, he told the crowd in an impromptu question-and-answer session after the first Venice screening Thursday.

Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes, in town to promote Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, were the most high-profile visitors to the festival so far. George Clooney, Matt Damon and Ewan McGregor are all expected on the Lido in the coming days.

The festival's main competition kicked off Wednesday night with the world premiere of Giuseppe Tornatore's Sicilian epic Baaria. The 66th edition of the Venice fest runs through September 12.