Hollywood made its presence felt in this year's line-up for the Cannes Film Festival, with Clint Eastwood and Steven Soderbergh nominated for the top directorial award, the Palme d'Or. But the list of contenders announced yesterday was notable for its absence of British films for the second successive year.
The big hitters of the American industry are expected to turn out in force for the festival even if organisers insisted that there were fewer box office directors on the list and more emerging directors from across the world. The festival will be staged next month, with the winner of the Palme d'Or announced on 25 May.
Eight of the directors on the 19-strong shortlist have never appeared in Cannes' main competition before and hail from Belgium, Turkey, France, China, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil and Italy. The award-winning German film-maker Wim Wenders also makes the shortlist with The Palermo Shooting .
Among the American contingent is the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman with his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Eastwood's film, The Changeling, is a 1920s thriller starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, while Soderbergh – a previous Palme d'Or winner – is up for his four-hour biopic of the Cuban revolutionary, Che Guevara, called Che.
Hollywood's presence is not restricted to the list of finalists but extends to the jury. The American actor Sean Penn is leading the seven-strong judging panel which also includes the actress Natalie Portman.
Steven Spielberg's long-awaited sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, starring Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett, will open the festival. The Pulp Fiction director, Quentin Tarantino, will hold a master-class in film-making and Woody Allen's latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, will be screened with the anticipated presence of its stars, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
There was less to celebrate for the British film industry, although homegrown films did feature in the "out of competition" line-up. Terence Davies' latest film, Of Time And The City, was selected to be screened at the festival. Filmed in Liverpool, it is an autobiographical documentary linked to the city in which Davies was born into a working-class Catholic family. His directorial past includes a celebrated adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel, The House of Mirth.
Soi Cowboy, also filmed in Liverpool, directed by the Brighton-born film-maker Thomas Clay, will be shown in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section, while Sam Taylor-Wood's short film, Love You More, produced by the late Anthony Minghella and featuring punk lovers, was selected for the short film competition.
Two years ago, Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or with his epic about the struggle for Irish independence, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and some will regard the absence of a British film in the official competition – for the second year running – as a blow. But the UK Film Council said the industry should not just focus on the competitive elements of Cannes.
In a statement, it said: "People shouldn't get too hung up on the fact that there are no British films in the main competition section – ultimately it comes down to what films are ready in time plus different trends and tastes each year for what is essentially an auteur film festival."
Unveiling the line-up for the 61st film festival, organisers said there was a feeling that "a new cycle was beginning" after last year's event which was criticised for its heavy American film industry presence. The festival has traditionally celebrated the best of arthouse cinema from Europe and the world.
Thierry Fremaux, the festival's head, said the presence of Spielberg and the stars of his film would nonetheless ensure "a magnificent red carpet".
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