Films in official selection are from 33 countries; total submissions were 1,715.

Thierry Fremaux, seated beside Cannes Festival president Gilles Jacob, unveiled the official selection for the 64th running of the event on Thursday morning in Paris.

In total, there are 49 films across the selection hailing from 33 countries in what Cannes general delegate Fremaux said was the first time the proportions were so close.

In the main competition and in Un Certain Regard there are 19 films each. The competition has a notable phenomenon this year: There are four female directors among the group.

The competition has several films that were predicted as dead certs including Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and Nanni Moretti’s We Have a Pope (Habemus Papem).

Malick’s last appearance in Cannes – despite having had an essentially open invitation last year had The Tree Of Life been ready in time – was in 1979 when he won the directing Palme d’Or for Days Of Heaven. Von Trier is marking his ninth time in competition. Only his Dancer In the Dark has taken the Palme d’Or while Breaking The Waves won the Grand Jury Prize in 1996. In 2009, Charlotte Gainsbourg – who also appears in Melancholia – won the Best Actress award for the controversial Antichrist. The Dardenne brothers are also back, this time with a slightly lighter film, The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo). The brothers have previously won the Palme d’Or twice.

First films include Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty and Markus Schleinzer’s Michael. The latter, an Austrian filmmaker, is best known as the casting director for several of fellow countryman Michael Haneke’s films including recent Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon. Leigh is an Australian director whose film stars Emily Browning, Michael Dorman and Mirrah Foulkes.

The other women in the group are France’s Maiwenn and her Polisse. She is a longtime actress who has directed two previous features. Naomi Kawase [pictured] is a Japanese director with a long list of documentaries under her belt. Fremaux noted the inclusion of her Hanezu No Tsuki was poignant this year given the devastation in her home country. Finally, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay is making a return to Cannes with the hotly anticipated Tilda Swinton-starrer We Need To Talk About Kevin after her Morvern Callar won the Youth Prize in 2002. (Kevin is the only UK film announced for Cannes thus far.)

Other notables in the competition include Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan with Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Aki Kaurismaki with Le Havre, Takashi Miike with Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai, Paolo Sorrentino with This Must Be The Place – starring Sean Penn - and in his first Cannes competition, Nicolas Winding Refn with the US-set Drive starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.

Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) marks be the first time the Spanish master has a film in competition prior to its opening in his home country.

In the Un Certain Regard sidebar are such auteurs as Bruno Dumont with Hors Satan, Robert Guedeguian with The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, Hong Sangsoo with The Day He Arrives and Kim Ki-duk with Arirang.

Also in Un Certain Regard is Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin which stirred buzz after its Sundance premiere earlier this year. Fremaux noted it was a rarity to have a film which has previously run in such a high-profile festival but that the selection committee was very keen on the film.

Danish director Joachim Trier, who won the Best Director prize in Karlovy Vary for 2006’s Reprise, is making his first trip to Cannes with Oslo, August 31st.

After a slight drop in submissions in 2010, Fremaux said numbers were back up with 1,715 films having been submitted and seen for 2011’s vintage.

Fremaux also noted that while there were 49 films selected overall, he had a special thought for those films which were turned down, “There were more than 49 films we liked,” he said.

The official selection, he said, can be broken down this year into two particular categories: Grand Auteurs and Young Filmmakers.

A relaxed Fremaux also surmised that this Cannes will be one “where the tone might be a bit less somber. A Cannes where we can have fun.”

Adding to the fun will be red carpet appearances by the likes of Johnny Depp with Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Mel Gibson who will turn out in support of Jodie Foster’s The Beaver which is running out of competition.

No closing night film was announced Thursday morning while the jury make-ups will be unveiled next week. The festival begins on May 11 and runs through May 22.