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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

Cannes film festival opens


Marc Burleigh | May 13, 2004

Quentin Tarantino outside his hotel in Cannes May 2004
Photo - AFP
CANNES — The Cannes film festival, the world's top showcase for international moviemaking, opened Wednesday with Spanish director Pedro Almodovar dedicating the extravaganza to the victims of the March 11 Madrid attacks.

A stream of elegantly dressed stars and celebrities turned out under a glum sky to walk the famous red carpet ahead of the festival's opening film, Almodovar's "Bad Education".

Almodovar himself declared the 12-day event open in Spanish, after first paying homage "to the victims of the terrorist attack in Madrid on March 11".

A series of bombs on packed commuter trains in the Spanish capital killed 191 people that day. The attack was believed to be the work of Islamic extremists possibly linked to Al-Qaeda.

Almodovar and several actresses who have starred in his previous films underlined the global character of the festival by announcing its official opening in a succession of different languages.

US director Quentin Tarantino was enthusiastic in taking up his role as this year's president of the jury tasked with selecting the Palme d'Or winner.

"It is my honour to be the president of this magnifique festival, and I'd like to say to the world: Vive le cinema!" he said.

He was joined on stage by the other members of the jury, among them actresses Emmanuelle Beart of France and Kathleen Turner of the United States.

The crowd included many movie personalities, many of them from Europe.

Gael Garcia Bernal, a 25-year-old Mexican actor, and the other members of the cast of Bad Education, a dark story about child abuse, gay love and lies, had prime seating for the screening following the short ceremony.

In the coming days, the star wattage is to intensify before culminating in the awarding of the Palme d'Or on May 22.

On Thursday, Brad Pitt is to appear for his new film, Troy, along with co-stars Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and Diane Kruger.

Other A-listers expected include Charlize Theron, Maggie Cheung, Cameron Diaz, Gong Li, Penelope Cruz, Uma Thurman, Tom Hanks, Sharon Stone and Sean Penn.

A total of 19 films are in competition for the Palme d'Or.

Fahrenheit 911, a US documentary by Michael Moore, is certain to generate buzz when it gets its premiere because of its heavy criticism of US President George W. Bush and his policies in the wake of the September 11, 2001.

More straight entertainment is to be provided by Shrek 2, the sequel to the blockbuster animation about a big green ogre. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, a British film about the chameleon-like comedic actor, The Motorcycle Diaries, an Argentinian-made flick about Che Guevara's formative trip across Latin America as a youth, and Old Boy, the latest movie by South Korean director Park Chan-wook will also be seen.

Security is tight in the French Riviera city, with 1,000 police being deployed.

As well as fears of terrorist threats, they are on the look-out for disturbances by French entertainment industry workers who had vowed to disrupt the festival to protest cuts to their unemployment benefits.

That menace failed to materialise on opening night after organisers struck a last-minute deal giving the protesters opportunities to publicly state their case.

With 5,000 journalists following the event, the festival ranks only behind the Olympic Games in terms of media coverage, ensuring worldwide attention.

More than 1,000 films are to be shown outside of the bright lights of the competition section, many of them in the behind-the-scenes "market" where producers, directors, writers and financers wheel and deal over projects.

And up and down the Mediterranean water frontage of the city preparations have been made for promotional parties, while in the hills overlooking the sea, sumptuous villas have been taken over by VIPs and their entourages looking for moments of privacy from the squads of paparazzi.

This year, a finale has been planned with fireworks and a concert featuring rock and pop stars Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Robbie Williams as well as jazz singer Diana Krall. – AFP


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