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VENICE, Italy (AP) _ With depth charges falling around his submarine movie ``K-19,'' Harrison Ford fought off criticism Sunday over the picture's poor box-office performance _ not with his onscreen snarl but with a calmness that hinted at how much the film means to him.

The underwater epic got a tepid reception in the United States, with audiences apparently not taking to the all-American Ford as a Soviet navy captain.

Ford, director Kathryn Bigelow and co-star Liam Neeson were at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday in hopes that the international release might be more successful.

``I do not consider the box office to be the true measure of the film,'' Ford said. ``I think it's very wrong to characterize this as a failure.''

Neeson added: ``I'm very proud of this film. To be honest, the box office doesn't enter into it.''

The movie, which Bigelow worked on for five years, is based on the true story of a Soviet nuclear sub that faced grave technical problems while on a 1961 mission near the United States. Ford and Neeson play dueling captains who try to avert an accident that could have sparked war.

Few American films have taken the Soviet perspective, and Bigelow hoped that this attempt to humanize the enemy could mend some of the old hostility between the former Cold War sides.

``The single-most inspiring element of this picture is the theme of humanity _ and that's able to cross all geopolitical lines,'' she said. ``It's an opportunity perhaps to heal old wounds.''

More 20th century political history appeared on the fourth day of the Venice festival, with the launch of a German film about the resurgence of Nazism after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

``Fuhrer Ex,'' a fictional film based loosely on Ingo Hasselbach's book about his time as a neo-Nazi in Germany, is among the 21 films in competition for a Golden Lion award in the main Venice 59 category.

Winifried Bonengel's film follows the lives of two East German teen-agers who become neo-Nazis in the late-1980s after serving prison terms. One friend manages to get out of the group, while the other becomes a hardened thug.

Hasselbach, who co-wrote the script, has worked to get youths out of the Nazi movement since escaping himself.

``My intention was explaining to young people what happens in the movement,'' he said Sunday. ``I wanted to show young people that they are exploited.''

Other films in the Venice 59 competition being screened Sunday were: Todd Haynes' ``Far From Heaven,'' starring Julianne Moore as a U.S. housewife in the 1950s who is forced to confront the conventional values of the time; and Andrej Konchalovsky's ``House of Fools,'' a Russian-French picture about a mental patient near Chechnya who is obsessed with singer Bryan Adams.

Also Sunday, veteran Italian comedy director Dino Risi was being awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. The 85-year-old is best known for films such as ``Poor But Beautiful'' (1957) and ``The Easy Life'' (1962).

The festival ends Sept. 8, when the jury headed by Chinese actress Gong Li hands out the Golden Lions in the main Venice 59 section, while a second jury will award prizes in the Upstream category for more experimental films.