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Cannes Film Festival Fever

May 23, 2008
The glamour and glitz of Tinseltown hit the French Riviera this week as the 61st Cannes Film Festival began.

The next 12 days will be full of A-listers, wannabes and executives schmoozing, posing and partying at the film industry's most famous and prestigious event. There will also be a good deal of serious film viewing and reviewing.

This year's festival is showcasing South American film and promises something for everyone, from dark independent European tales and quirky animation to good old-fashioned blockbusting Hollywood adventure.

Over 33,000 industry professionals will be in Cannes to see 22 movies fight it out for the coveted Palme d'Or for best film which is awarded on the final day, 25 May. Other awards in the motion picture competition include the Grand Prix, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor.

The main competition opens with Brazilian entry Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles who also directed City of God. It stars Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal caught up in a global blindness epidemic.

More big names in the feature film competition include Angelina Jolie in Clint Eastwood's Changeling, Benicio del Toro in Steven Soderbergh's Che, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix in James Gray's Two Lovers and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York.

Matteo Garrone, Paolo Sorrentino and Ari Folman are some of the less mainstream directors competing for the big awards.

There are also competition prizes for new talent (Un Certain Regard), film school entries (Cinefondation) and short films. In addition, the festival features special screenings and out of competition showings.

This year the return of the well-preserved Harrison Ford as archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones is grabbing the headlines in the latter category. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is directed, as ever, by Steven Spielberg. Jack Black, Woody Allen and Robert de Niro are all involved in Out of Competition films too.

Madonna, Diego Maradona and Mike Tyson are just a few of the celebrities expected to strut their stuff on the Croisette, Cannes' main thoroughfare, during the next two weeks.

Britain is represented at the festival by first-time director Steve McQueen who opens the Un Certain Regard competition with his portrayal of the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands. The IRA hunger striker died in 1981 after 66 days without food. The short film category features a film made by English artist Sam Taylor-Wood and executive-produced by the late Anthony Minghella.

The juries for each competition category include international film actors, directors, writers, technicians, critics and journalists depending on the award. This year's feature film jury is led by American actor-director Sean Penn and includes US actress Natalie Portman and Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron.

Last year Cristian Mungiu won the feature film Palme d'Or with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

The Cannes Film Festival may be a private, invitation-only affair but even we mere mortals can enjoy the unique atmosphere of the resort. EasyJet flies to Nice from London and most regional airports. UK travellers based in the North can fly from Manchester with Air France and KLM.
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