"I forgot how dramatic and difficult it was to choose and call directors that I admire and respect the most and say to them: 'Your film has not been chosen'," he said.
Both De Palma's sexy thriller "Passion" and Malick's romance "To The Wonder" star actress Rachel McAdams. It is De Palma's first feature film since "Redacted," which won Venice's award for best direction in 2007.
Ramin Bahrani will premier "At Any Price," a film set in the competitive world of modern agriculture and starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham, while fellow American Harmony Korine will show his comedy-romance "Spring Breakers," starring James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.
Besides the four U.S. directors, three Italians will premier films, including Marco Bellocchio with "Bella Addormentata," inspired by the real-life case of a young Italian woman whose family waged a battle to remove her feeding tube after she was left comatose by an accident.
Otherwise, the broad field includes films from France, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the Philippines.
Many of the films in competition are co-productions, with France taking the lead with seven. De Palma's film does not get U.S. billing at all, but is rather a French-German production.
Golden Lion-winner Mira Nair opens the festival with "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," starring Riz Ahmed, Kat Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber. The film, which is being shown out of competition, is based on the best-selling book about a young Pakistani Wall Street analyst who gets swept into conflict in his homeland following Sept. 11. Nair won the Golden lion in 2001 for "Monsoon Wedding."
Barbera said the upcoming festival puts an emphasis on world cinema and also directors who are not household names. He also noted one-third of the films showing at the festival were directed by women — something that happened by chance, he said, since he usually doesn't look at the director's name ahead of time.
"There is a huge crisis in the world right now, the whole system. But there are also many new ferments, new countries that are working, new authors, new ways of making films at low cost but with complete professionalism," Barbera said.
"It is a moment of transition, a moment of crisis, but a moment of great opportunity."
Paola Barisani contributed from Rome.