The latest film by the British director Mike Leigh has been selected alongside 16 others from around the world to compete for the prized Palm D'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, it was announced yesterday.
Leigh, who has a very healthy track record at Cannes – he won the grand prize in 1996 for Secrets and Lies and was also named best director for Naked three years earlier – will have his film Another Year shown alongside the world premiere of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, which is opening the festival but is not up for an award.
The plot of Leigh's film, which stars Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton, is being kept firmly under wraps, but promises to be an "intimate portrait of people's lives".
Other film-makers competing for the Palm D'Or include France's Bertrand Tavernier, the Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – known for the films Amores Perros and Babel – and South Korea's Lee Chang-dong. The American director Doug Liman will make his Cannes debut with Fair Game, alongside festival stalwarts Abbas Kiarostami from Iran and Takeshi Kitano from Japan.
While the competitive films have been chosen with the usual emphasis on cinematic artistry, the fringes of the festival look set to be full of glamour. Oliver Stone will screen his latest movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, starring Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf, while Woody Allen is bringing You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, starring Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins.
Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe, a story of love and lust in a rural idyll, will also be shown. Another British production, Chatroom, a thriller written by Enda Walsh has been selected for the Un Certain Regard category, second to the main competition. Sophie Fiennes, the British-born sister of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, will come to the festival for the first time with her film Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, about the German artist Anselm Kiefer.
John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, said the strong British showing at Cannes "is a sign that right now British films, film-makers and talent are delivering great work that the rest of the world wants to see."
The actors Benicio Del Toro and Kate Beckinsale are joining the festival jury, which is headed by Tim Burton. The festival attracts more than 33,000 people each year.