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Al Fayed heads for Cannes to promote Diana documentary

Brad Pitt, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Robert De Niro will walk down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, which opens this week. But the latest addition to that glittering roll-call of talent is less celebrated.

The former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed will travel to Cannes on Friday to launch Unlawful Killing, a controversial documentary directed and produced by the comedian Keith Allen. The movie is due to be screened to an exclusive audience of distributors and journalists and focuses on the circumstances surrounding the death in 1997 of Diana, Princess of Wales.

"Keith met Mohamed in 2004 to discuss a project and they got talking," said a spokesperson for the film, who said that Mr Al Fayed had also contributed funds to the project. "He is interviewed for the film. But it's not his project. It's Keith's project."

The movie tells of the inquest into Diana's death, which opened in 2007. Mr Al Fayed claimed in 1998 that he believed Diana and his son Dodi were murdered by British establishment figures, including former prime minister Tony Blair. The ultimate verdict of the inquest was "unlawful killing through negligent driving", from which the film takes its title.

The Egyptian businessman is expected to field questions from journalists on the controversial project, though it is unclear whether his participation will extend to any publicity stunts for which the festival has become renowned.

Hollywood gossip website TMZ reported last week that Unlawful Killing claimed to have a recording of Diana speaking on the telephone, a year before her death. "If you're a strong woman in my environment, you're a problem," Diana is reported to have said. "No time for hobbies, keeping alive is one of them." TMZ also reported that the film accuses a doctor, who attended the crash, of waiting too long to remove Diana from the wreckage. It claimed the film had been banned in Britain.

The film was finished in March after three years of work. Allen researched the movie by "covertly" attending the inquest alongside journalists reporting on it for the mainstream media.

The film's spokesperson said the movie showed a "cover up" after Diana's death. "It shows how vital evidence was hidden from public scrutiny, how the Royal Family were exempted from giving evidence and how journalists, particularly those working for the British media, systematically misreported what was happening."