- Thursday, Apr. 14, 2016
- PARIS (AP)
Sean Penn's "The Last Face" about aid workers in Africa will compete at the Cannes Film Festival - along with movies about interracial marriage in 1950s America, illness and poverty in working class Britain and cannibal fashion models in L.A. - in a high-glamour yet socially conscious lineup announced by festival organizers Thursday.
The 49 selected films come from 28 countries, including Iran, Brazil, Egypt, Israel and South Korea, with 20 of them running for the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the French Riviera festival, held under heightened security after recent deadly Islamic extremist attacks on France and Belgium.
Organizers hope that the three women directors that figure among the 20 top-tier entries will satisfy critics who say that female talent is overlooked at the festival.
This year, top stars expected to grace the famed red carpet at the May 11-22 festival include Marion Cotillard, Shia LaBeouf, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster and George Clooney, and this edition will see the return of old Cannes favorites such as directors Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch and the Dardenne brothers.
Penn's latest directorial effort, with Theron and Javier Bardem, is likely to get top attention, alongside the festival's wackiest entry, the Danish horror film "The Neon Demon" by Nicolas Winding Refn about beauty-obsessed flesh-eating models.
Others include "Loving" by American director Jeff Nichols, about a black-white couple in the U.S. in the 1950s, and British director Loach's "I, Daniel Blake," about a working-class man in northern England struggling with poverty and injury.
Festival Director Thierry Fremaux joked that Loach had backtracked on his announcement that the 2014 film "Jimmy's Hall" would be his last. Fremaux called the British director's 2016 entry his "final, final movie."
Spanish director Almodovar's "Julieta" is also competing, and young Canadian director Xavier Dolan has a new entry with "It's Only the End of the World" about a dying author - the second time the rising star has had a film running for the Palme d'Or. It stars Cotillard and Lea Seydoux.
American auteur Jarmusch returns to the Rivera with "Paterson" - a yarn about a bus driver and a poet set in New Jersey. It stars Adam Driver, who's moving back to a smaller film after his breakout role as Kylo Ren in the blockbuster "The Force Awakens."
"Basic Instinct" director Paul Verhoeven features among the lineup with his first French-language film "Elle," a psychological thriller starring actress Isabelle Huppert.
Adding to the intrigue, in a mysterious reference to the Panama Papers offshore investigations, Fremaux said there also might be a late entry from Panama, "for those who follow current affairs," without elaborating.
Festival president Pierre Lescure said there are 500 security personnel assigned to the festival and they're working with national security authorities.
"The maximum has been done" to strike the balance between security and "ensuring that the festival remains a place of freedom," Lescure said.
This year's festival has a markedly American flavor, and opens with Woody Allen's 1930s Hollywood film "Cafe Society," starring Stewart and Eisenberg. It's showing out of competition.
Of the 20 films running for the top prize, three were made by women: Germany's Maren Ade with "Toni Erdmann"; the UK's Andrea Arnold with "American Honey," starring LaBeouf; and France's Nicole Garcia with "From the Land of the Moon," starring Cotillard alongside Louis Garrel. The festival organizers have been criticized in previous years for failing to include a wider selection of films directed by women.
For the first time there will be no closing film. Instead the festival will rescreen the winning film, as an experiment, Fremaux said.
The jury is presided over this year by "Mad Max" director George Miller.