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French Version

Twenty films battle it out for prestigious Palme d'Or at Cannes festival

The Hollywood glitterati touched down in France Wednesday for the start of their annual 10-day stint in Cannes. A total of 20 films from all around the world are competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or in this year's film festival and everyone is keen to see and be seen.

The list of contenders contains such usual suspects as Pedro Almodovar, Sofia Coppola, Ken Loach and Nanni Moretti. Also nominated for the prize, though, is lesser known Rachid Bouchareb. The Algerian-born director (and producer on Ziad Doueiri's "West Beirut") caused a stir on the international film festival scene in 2001 with "Little Senegal."

That film, about a Senegalese man searching for the descendants of his enslaved family 300 years later, won nine awards and was nominated for several more, but surprisingly caused hardly a ripple at Cannes.

However, having won the Youth Award and the Perspectives du Cinema Award in 1991 for "Cheb," this year, and for the first time, Bouchareb is in contention for Cannes' main prize.

"L'Indigenes" covers a much neglected topic: the use of soldiers from Europe's colonies in fighting the First and Second World Wars at home. In 1944-45, while France begins to free itself from Nazi domination, the story of four "indigenous" soldiers, recruited in Africa for the first French Army, unfolds. It is sure to add to Boucha-reb's reputation when it is released in September.

The only other film from the region that is in competition this year is by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. This is his second nomination for the Palme d'Or. His first was in 2003 for "Uzak," which, although it didn't win the main prize, earned Ceylan the Grand Jury Prize and the French Culture Award, as well as 15 other awards on the film festival circuit.

This year's offering, "Climates," is based on the idea that man was made to be happy for simple reasons and unhappy for even simpler ones - just as he is born for simple reasons and dies for even simpler ones. Isa and Bahar are two lonely figures dragged through the ever-changing climate of their inner selves in pursuit of a happiness that no longer belongs to them.

With these two films, there is a glimmer of hope that the Middle East will have another Palme d'Or winner, following on Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's success in 1997.

Cannes,22May2006
Daniella Matar
The Daily Star


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