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It's all about those big bear hugs

Fifty people dressed as pandas ate breakfast at a pier restaurant and welcomed American actor Jack Black... Deepa Gahlot on Cannes Film Festival's opening day

entertainment Updated: May 16, 2008 18:26 IST
Deepa Gahlot

It could happen only in Cannes. Fifty people dressed as pandas ate breakfast at a pier restaurant and welcomed American actor Jack Black - a gimmick to promote the animated film Kung Fu Panda, which has Black's voice as its star attraction.

The film is about a bear which combats assorted villains with martial arts. Now the 50 pandas will be the festival's talking point till the next attention-grabbing event.

Just off the carpet
The world's most glamorous film festival unrolled the red carpet with a screening by Brazil's twice Oscar-nominated Fernando Meirelles. The script has been adapted from a book by Portugal's Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago.

The terrifying story is about a world where people have lost their sight, and the near-apocalyptic consequences of such an imagined epidemic. Meirelles returns to Cannes, six years after the out of-competition presentation of City of God.

The powerful Blindness prompted actor Sean Penn, who heads this year's Cannes jury, to remark that human disasters such as those in China and Burma should not be forgotten.

(Incidentally, Cannes watchers have noted that Jia Zhangke's film, 24 City, about high-rise apartment blocks of China, "has a mournful urgency after the catastrophic earthquake on Monday .")

At the press conference after Blindness, the director said, "When I first read the book, I was attracted to the fragility of civilisation. We consider ourselves so strong, sophisticated, and sol id, and then one thing goes and everything collapses. We're skating on thin ice. Anything can happen."

Rock on
The opening day's whopper surprise was a performance by the 1960s US rock-folk star Richie Havens. He sang his 1969 Woodstock anthem, Freedom, on stage.

Attending the opening ceremony were Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria and Faye Dunaway. Also spotted: Dennis Hopper, Gillian Anderson, Danny Glover, Mark Ruf falo and Susannah York.

Meanwhile, there is a large Indian contingent at Cannes, including the Bachchan family. Over the last few years, Indian filmmakers have cottoned on to the importance of Cannes as an important market.

Indian connection
So even if year after year, the Cannes festival selectors thumb down Indian films, there are several out-of-festi val screenings and hopes (mostly vain) of major deals with international studios.

Ketan Mehta's Colours of Passion/ Rang Rasiya, a biopic about iconic painter Raja Ravi Verma, will have its world premiere. Posters and hoarding of Vipul Shah's Singh is Kinng have been propped up all over the market. Huh?