British films battle for Palme D'Or (thanks to taxpayers)

Three British films are vying for the Cannes Film Festival's prized Palme D'Or in a remarkable comeback for home-grown cinema after an absence of British movies in the line-up last year.

Ken Loach's film Looking For Eric, about an obsessive football fan and starring the Manchester United star Eric Cantona, was announced in the competition line-up yesterday, alongside Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, which focuses on teen angst and single motherhood, and Jane Campion's story of John Keat's ill-fated love affair, Bright Star. They are among 20 films selected from around the world.

Only one film was chosen from America, Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglorious Basterds.

The film stars Brad Pitt and depicts Jewish-American soldiers who embark on a perilous revenge mission in Nazi-occupied France.

Tarantino won the Palme D'Or for his second film, Pulp Fiction, in 1994.

Loach, who picked up the Palme D'Or in 2006 for his epic on the struggle for Irish independence, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, is in the running again this year for his tale of a football fan who receives spiritual advice from Cantona, who plays himself.

It is understood that Cantona, who retired from the game in 1997 and has since pursued a career in acting and directing, went to Loach with the idea.

The Australian Jane Campion was shortlisted for her biopic of Keats who wrote the love poem "Bright Star" for his 18-year-old next door neighbour, Fanny Brawne. The film features the British actor Ben Whishaw and was jointly produced in Australia, Britain and France.

Arnold, whose first film, a psychological thriller called Red Road, won the Cannes Prix de Jury in 2005, has this time turned her attentions to the trials of family relationships.

John Woodward, the chief executive of the UK Film Council, said: "It's significant that both Jane Campion's Bright Star and Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank were funded with public money.

"This demonstrates the absolutely vital role that public funding plays in getting independent films made in an increasingly tough economic climate."

The Directors Ang Lee and Pedro Almodovar are also in the running to win the Palme D'Or this year – arguably the highest accolade in cinema – with Taking Woodstock, a humorous take on the legendary music concert, and Broken Embraces, shot in the style of a hard-boiled 1950s film noir.

Terry Gilliam will screen his film The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus outside of the competition, which is an honour in its own right. The event will run from 13 to 24 May.

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