The Deauville Festival of American Film kicked off on Friday night under stormy skies with at least one star shining bright.

Harrison Ford, who's become something of a regular in the Normandy town having presented his films here for the past twenty years, came to jump-start the festival with his latest film Hollywood Homicide by Ron Shelton.

In a ceremony preceding the screening, Ford was made an honorary citizen of Deauville and quipped that he might now run for mayor since "an actor is running for governor in California." Unfortunately for guests hoping to catch a glimpse of the 61-year-old star at the gala dinner following the screening, Ford and girlfriend Calista Flockhart didn't show up.

On Sunday, however, Ford could be seen on the lawn of the Royal Hotel where he presented the best director Oscar statuette to Roman Polanski - who won the award in March.

Because of Polanski's status as a fugitive from justice following a conviction for statutory rape in 1977 he cannot return to the US. Ford, who worked with Polanski on the Paris-set thriller Frantic had promised to get the Oscar to the director back in March and was able to keep his word Sunday in a relaxed presentation.

Also in town was MPA president Jack Valenti who came to present the prix Michel d'Ornano which goes to a French screenwriter for a first film. As previously announced Julie Bertuccelli's Since Otar Left was the winner with the director/screenwriter and collaborator Bernard Renucci picking up the purse for a future effort.

Valenti, who has had a cosy relationship with the French in the past few years following strained relations in the 90s told that he was unconcerned about the current perceived Franco-American tension. "Nothing lasts," he said, "I think opinions have more or less softened."

Valenti also noted that he had made a proposal to the EU during a meeting at the Venice Film Festival regarding a proposed new directive on digital piracy. "I suggested we join together in a joint enterprise to do technological research which could be the rebuttal to piracy." Indeed, Valenti is rarely more vocal when speaking of copyright and the stealing of movies. "The cultural industry everywhere is under attack," he said, "the plague of piracy is a major priority."

As usual, Canal Plus is in strong form at the festival and announced the formalisation of an output deal with Spyglass Entertainment on Saturday. Although the deal had previously been signalled, signatures were garnered in Deauville where Spyglass chiefs Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum were in town to present the premiere of Seabiscuit.

The agreement is a straight three-year exclusive output deal for Canal Plus and its movie channels and is similar to deals also announced with Intermedia and New Line. The deal highlights how Canal is forging ahead with plans to strengthen its line-up and stem subscriber churn. Spyglass' recent slate includes Bruce Almighty, Shanghai Nights, The Recruit and the upcoming Connie And Carla. Also in the works are Four Christmases, The Pacifier and an adaptation of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Barner and Birnbaum also said they were currently examining co-financing deals with two major Hollywood studios but would not reveal which ones.

Following a Sunday night tribute to James Ivory and the screening of his latest film, the French-themed Le Divorce, the official competition gets underway on Monday. The festival will run until September 14.