PARIS: Hollywood names and arthouse directors on Thursday get to hear if they are in the frame for the Palme d'Or at next month's Cannes film festival, the world's leading cinema showcase.
The announcement, due to be made in Paris by festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux, is the starting gun for the prestigious French Riviera movie fest. Around 1,700 films have been submitted to the 11-day event, but only 50 or so will be given an official berth. Half of them are in the race for the coveted Golden Palm and the other half will compete in a section called Un Certain Regard, which highlights new talent.
Cannes is famed for its top-grade celebrities, glitzy parties and luxury yachts, its launch of filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino and the spotlight it turns on obscure directors and quirky or provocative movies.
It's a “temple that's really important to protect the more adventurous filmmaking that's going on around the world”, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle told AFP in Paris earlier this week.
It is also a huge market place where producers come to cut deals with distributors hungry for a slice of the next big movie event. Fremaux has let nothing slip in the run-up to Thursday's announcement but names tipped by the French media for this year's official selection include Terrence Malick for “Knight of Cups” with Christian Bale and Natalie Portman; Briton Stephen Frears' “Philomena”; and the Coen Brothers' “Inside Llewyn Davis”.
Others thought to be in the running are Sofia Coppola's “The Bling Ring”; “Nebraska” by Alexander Payne; and Iranian Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi's “Le Passe” with French star Berenice Bejo. Also tipped for a slot are Briton Steve McQueen's “Twelve Years a Slave”; Nicolas Winding Refn for “Only God Forgives”, which stars man of the moment Ryan Gosling; Jim Jarmusch's “Only Lovers Left Alive”; Tsai Ming-liang with “Diary of a Young Boy”; and Japan's Hirokazu Kore-Eda, director of “Soshite Chichi ni Naru”.
The only names confirmed so far are the opening and closing films, as well as Steven Spielberg, who will head the festival jury, and “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou, who will host the opening and closing ceremonies.
Twelve years after Baz Luhrmann's “Moulin Rouge!” opened the 2001 festival, the Australian's latest film, “The Great Gatsby,” will do the opening honours on May 15 with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in a remake of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Jerome Salle's film “Zulu”, starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, will bring proceedings to a close on May 26. “Gatsby” will be screened out of competition on the same day as it is released in France.
Set on the US East Coast of the Roaring Twenties, DiCaprio stars as Fitzgerald's mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, battling to win the heart of Daisy, a girl he courted in his youth, played by Mulligan.
“Zulu”, meanwhile, is set in Cape Town against the background of a South Africa still overshadowed by apartheid, where affluent suburbs rub shoulders with dirt-poor townships.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by French author Caryl Ferey, it tells the story of two police officers who become entangled in the darker side of politics and society.
Whitaker won the best actor Academy Award in 2007 for his role as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” and best actor at Cannes in 1988 for his part in Clint Eastwood's “Bird”.