Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob and general manager Thierry Fremaux announced the official line up for the 61st edition this morning in Paris.
Among the surprises were the last minute additions of Clint Eastwood's Changeling and Steven Soderbergh's two Che Guevara films The Argentine and Guerilla, although in press documents they are listed under the title Che and with a four-hour running time (the films will not compete against each other.)
Both Soderbergh films had been tipped for Cannes but in recent days, it appeared that while the second part was finished, the first was not. As for Eastwood, Fremaux said he had only just received a call from the States asking him to take a look at the film.
Indeed, the official announcement came a week later this year with many question marks hanging over the selection. Fremaux acknowledged the tardiness, pointing out that many films from Cannes regulars and well-known names were not ready earlier. There was also an increased number of films to be screened with 1,792 features submitted for an 11% jump over last year.
Of the process, Fremaux said, 'It was long, it was very complicated and very difficult - even if it remains a rich selection.'
This year marks the first for which Fremaux has held the post of general manager. In his opening remarks, Jacob praised Fremaux for being only the fourth person in the festival's history to bear the title. 'To go from artistic director to general manager will allow (Fremaux) to maintain film at the heart of the logic of Cannes.'
Jacob listed the jury members which include president Sean Penn and filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron, Rachid Bouchareb and Natalie Portman but which curiously only number seven this year. In previous years, it has been the norm to have a nine-member jury. Still, given that the Un Certain Regard and Camera d'Or juries are as-yet incomplete under respective presidents Fatih Akin and Bruno Dumont, there may be more names to come.
Such is the case with the official selection. Fremaux has made a habit in the past several years of adding a film from anytime in between the official announcement and the first few days of the festival. He said that indeed, there would be coming additions and surprises this year.
However, the festival has been pared down somewhat following last year's 60th anniversary. There are only five special screenings this year as compared to 12 in 2007, for example.
Thus far, there are 19 titles in competition as compared to last year's 22. Three (or four if counting the Soderbergh films separately) hail from the US including Changeling and Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut Synedoche, New York. Kaufman is the only first-time director in the main competition, making him eligible for the Camera d'Or prize.
There are two films from France (a third will be added in the coming days): Philippe Garrel's La Frontiere De L'Aube and Arnaud Desplechin's Un Conte De Noel. Desplechin is marking a return to Cannes for the first time since 2000. This is Garrel's first time in competition.
Other notable inclusions are festival darlings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Le Silence De Lorna; Atom Egoyan's Adoration; Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys; Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' Linha De Passe and Wim Wenders' The Palermo Shooting.
Fremaux noted that the Italians were a bit put out last year not to have been represented at all in the competition. This year, two films will participate: Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo and Matteo Garrone's Gomorra.
Asia and -- especially -- Latin America continue to have a strong presence in the competition with films from China, Singapore, the Philippines, Argentina and Brazil. Further, Hungarian film-maker Kornel Mundruczo, who has been a festival circuit fixture for several years, has his first competition slot in Cannes with Delta.
Notably absent from the line up are Fernando Meirelles' Blindness and Agnes Varda's autobiographical documentary Les Plages d'Agnes. Still, neither the opening nor the closing night film has yet to be announced.
On the out of competition side, as widely predicted, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull will screen on Sunday May 18 and it will mark Steven Spielberg's return to the Cannes red carpet for the first time since 1985's The Color Purple.
Also out of competition is Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona with Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz and Mark Osborne and John Stevenson's Kung Fu Panda with the voice of Jack Black.
All tolled in the main selection and Un Certain Regard, there are 49 films screening. Forty-seven of them will be screened for the first time, Fremaux pointed out. The exceptions are Hungarian Film Week winner Delta, and Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski documentary, a hit at Sundance, which will get a special screening.
There will also be a tribute to Manoel de Oliveira who celebrates his 100th birthday this year.
For the line-up, click here.