Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education (La Mala Educacion) will open the 57th Cannes Film Festival on May 12,the event's organisers announced on Friday.

At an impromptu press conference called at the Madrid officeof El Deseo on the same day, Almodovar confirmed that he did not plan tocompete with Bad Education at Cannes.

"In terms of going to Cannes, this is the best way togo," the director said. "I love the idea of walking up the redcarpet with these actors and seeing the film on that splendid screen -and yet not having to deal with the nerves of whether or not they'll giveyou a prize."

Bad Education willmake history as the first Spanish film ever to inaugurate the festival.

Producer-brother Agustin Almodovar also confirmed that Patheplans to move both the French and UK releases up to May to coincide with thefestival opening. The world premiere will take place as usual in Spain, whereBad Education is set to open March 18 on around 170 screens through WarnerSogefilms.

The US release through Sony Pictures Classics is expected tofollow in the autumn. Sony was understood to be screening the finished film forthe first time on Friday. Sales agent Focus International will present ateaser-trailer at the AFM.

"For me it is significant that Cannes chose this filmbecause it means they adore it," said Pedro Almodovar. "I knowthere were other, important films after this slot." Cannes has beenpursuing Bad Education since beforeshooting started.

Bad Education iswritten and directed by Almodovar and stars Fele Martinez, Javier Camara andhot Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal who could score a Cannes double header ifWalter Salles' Motorcycle Diaries, in which he plays a young Che Guevara, is selected in competition asrumoured. Martinez and Camara both appeared in Almodovar's 2002 multipleaward winner Talk To Her.

Bad Education beginsin the 1960s with the coming of age of two parochial schoolboys under thewatchful eye of the school's director, Father Manolo, and examines theeffects of a religious education on their lives as adults when their pathscross again in the 70s and 80s.

Although the film touches on the abuse of minors by Catholicpriests, the Almodovars do not seem concerned about controversy affecting itsrelease.

The director did joke, however, that he is keeping a file ofnewspaper clips on real cases, and denied he would organise specialinterest-group screenings a la Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ.

Almodovar has worked on the script for Bad Education off and on for ten years. Inspired by experiences hewitnessed in his own Catholic school upbringing, he says the lengthy writingprocess allowed him the necessary distance to tone down the story, told inthree overlapping narratives, and keep it from coming off as"angry" or "vengeful." He does, however, define it as"black."

"The film doesn't only deal with the terribleeducation people of my generation received in religious schools. This serves asa starting point to introduce the characters we meet again as adults 16 yearslater. The story is what happens in that second part of the film."

El Deseo has also submitted its Argentinean co-production TheHoly Girl (La Nina Santa) from LucreciaMartel to Cannes this year.

Almodovar was a member of the Cannes jury in 1992 while hislast competition film, All About My Mother,took the directing prize in 1999.