Each year, when the lights go down after every film at the Noga Hilton (now known as the Palais Stephanie), a history of Directors' Fortnight unfolds before your eyes.

An inspirational montage of still photos and brief scenes skim through 40 years of talent discovery and championing of world-class film-makers.

Key images from the films of Scorsese and Herzog, Oshima and Angelopoulos, Loach and Haneke, Solondz and Jarmusch are pressed together into a scrapbook of greatness. The montage is a remarkable and powerful summation of what the Directors' Fortnight has achieved in four decades.

Established in 1969, the Quinzaine des Realisateurs, or Directors' Fortnight, was a direct response to the events that rocked France in 1968 and spilled onto the streets of Cannes - bringing that year's festival to an abrupt end. The Directors' Fortnight was a solution to the problem of how to make the festival less stuffy and more responsive to social and artistic changes.

The Societe des Realisateurs de Films was founded by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, who shaped the Directors' Fortnight sidebar as a radical alternative to the Official Competition - a forum for little-known film-makers and areas of world cinema that had been unjustly neglected. The selection process would be auteur-led and the philosophy was one of complete artistic freedom.

A great deal may have changed from the early days of shoestring budgets and tiny venues, but the underlying ethos has remained constant.

The Fortnight is the area of Cannes you expect to discover new trends and fresh talents. It is where Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro came with Mean Streets in 1974 when nobody knew who they were. It is where Spike Lee became the toast of the town in 1986 after the first screening of She's Gotta Have It, where African cinema found a place and where successive new waves of Brazilian, Iranian and Romanian film-makers have staked a claim for recognition.

Directors' Fortnight has been housed in purpose-built facilities at the Palais Stephanie since 1992. There is a special atmosphere that comes from an audience in which eager members of the public often outnumber jaded cinema professionals.

The critical response to a film will soon tell the director whether it is an artistic hit but a Fortnight roar of approval is often the surest sign of a commercial success. Standing ovations and prolonged cheers have greeted the arrival of such diverse Fortnight premieres as The Blair Witch Project (1999), Billy Elliot (2000, when it was still called Dancer) and The Host (2006).

There is a more relaxed feeling to the Fortnight than to the festival at large; members of the public can buy tickets and the press conferences are open to everyone. It is a place where fellow film-makers also feel able to appear in a supporting role, with Hugh Jackman in the audience for his wife Deborra-Lee Furness' performance in Jindabyne in 2006 or Vittorio Gassman slipping in to watch his son Alessandro's performance in Ferzan Ozpetek's Hamam in 1997.

Increasing competition from Un Certain Regard, Critics' Week and the Official Selection has made it difficult for the Fortnight to maintain its reputation at the cutting edge of Cannes, but it remains an important forum for discovery. The 2007 selections alone brought us the first glimpses of several films that have gone on to global success including Control, Garage and Caramel.

The Fortnight retains an importance as the maker and custodian of great reputations. Often talents discovered there will be promoted to the harsher spotlight of the Competition in later years or film-makers stepping back from large-scale projects to a more intimate venture will find a more comfortable home at the Fortnight.

It took just two years for Scorsese and De Niro to graduate to Palme d'Or winners with Taxi Driver (1976). Ken Loach was a fixture of the Fortnight before graduating to a semi-permanent presence in the main Competition and ultimately winning the Palme d'Or for The Wind That Shakes The Barley in 2006.

The Fortnight may have begun life as a radical sidebar but after 40 years it has become a key part of the reasons Cannes remains the most important film festival in the world.


Opening film

Four Nights With Anna (Pol-Fr)

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski

Int'l sales: Elle Driver, (33) 1 56 43 67 35

Closing film

The Pleasure Of Being Robbed (US)

Dir: Joshua Safdie

Int'l sales: Submarine, (1) 212 625 1410


Acne* (Urug-Arg-Sp-Mex)

Dir: Federico Veiroj

Int'l sales: Rezo Films, (33) 1 42 46 46 30

Aquele Querido Mes De Agosto (Port-Fr)

Dir: Miguel Gomes

Int'l sales: O Som E A Furia, (351) 21 358 25 19

Boogie (Rom)

Dir: Radu Muntean

Int'l sales: Maximum Film International, (1) 416 960 0300

Les Bureaux De Dieu (Fr)

Dir: Claire Simon

Contact: Les Films D'Ici, (33) 1 44 52 23 23

El Cant Dels Ocells (Sp)

Dir: Albert Serra

Int'l sales: Capricci Films, (33) 2 40 89 20 59

Dernier Maquis (Fr-Alg)

Dir: Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche

Int'l sales: UMedia, (33) 1 48 70 73 18

Eldorado (Bel-Fr)

Dir: Bouli Lanners

Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 99

Eleve Libre (Bel-Fr)

Dir: Joachim Lafosse

Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 99

Liverpool (Arg-Fr-Neth-Sp-Ger)

Dir: Lisandro Alonso

Int'l sales: The Match Factory, (49) 221 539 7090

Monsieur Morimoto (Fr)

Dir: Nicola Sornaga

Contact: Tricycle Productions, (33) 1 43 15 66 59

Knitting (Chi)

Dir: Yin Lichuan

Contact: Vivian Qu, (86) 10 65 01 8008

Now Showing (Phil-Fr)

Dir: Raya Martin

Contact: (63) 2 749 7425

On War (Fr)

Dir: Bertrand Bonello

Int'l sales: Films Distribution, (33) 1 53 10 33 99

Il Resto Della Notte (It)

Dir: Francesco Munzi

Int'l sales: Films Boutique, (49) 30 84 11 08 59

Salamandra* (Arg-Fr-Ger)

Dir: Pablo Aguero

Contact: JBA Production, (33) 1 48 04 84 60

Shultes* (Rus)

Dir: Bakur Bakuradze

Int'l sales: Intercinema, (7) 495 255 9052

Blind Loves* (Slov)

Dir: Juraj Lehotsky

Int'l sales: Autlook Filmsales, (43) 720 55 35 70

Lonely Tune Of Tehran (Iran)

Dir: Saman Salour

Int'l sales: DreamLab Films, (33) 4 93 38 75 61

Tony Manero (Chile-Braz)

Dir: Pablo Larrain

Int'l sales: Funny Balloons, (33) 1 40 13 05 84

Le Voyage Aux Pyrenees (Fr)

Dirs: Jean-Marie and Arnaud Larrieu

Int'l sales: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 49 70 03 70

Special screenings

40x15 (Fr)

Dir: Olivier Jahan

Int'l sales: MK2TV, (33) 1 44 67 30 00

Milestones (US)

Dirs: Robert Kramer and John Douglas

Int'l sales: Capricci Films, (33) 2 40 89 20 59

* First film, eligible for the Camera d'Or.