An animated documentary about Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and a courageous portrayal of the Naples mafia are among the frontrunners at the halfway stage of the Cannes film festival.
Film goers are generally impressed with the quality of 11 competition movies screened so far and critics have also highlighted several discoveries outside the main lineup.
"Usually at this stage we would have seen more absolute stinkers," said film critic and author Mark Cousins, who is covering his 18th Cannes festival. "For me it's a rather high standard, though we don't know what's coming, obviously."
Among his favorites for the Palme d'Or, which goes to the jury's choice of best film, is Waltz With Bashir, director Ari Folman's attempt to piece together buried memories of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila camps.
Folman uses animation to recreate interviews with fellow Israeli soldiers serving with him at the time.
"Folman's nearly monochromatic palette allows you to absorb the horror of atrocities without any pornographic fixation on gore," wrote Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter.
Italy's Gomorra was hailed for its bravery in depicting the brutal world of the Camorra crime network in Naples.
It is based on the best-selling account of the group by journalist Roberto Saviano, who has been living under police protection for the past two years.
Both entries are regarded as political which may give them a edge if jury president Sean Penn wishes to highlights topicality alongside cinematic craft at the prize ceremony on Sunday.
Turkey, France, Belgium impress
, a Turkish film that tells a bleak story of family secrets and is directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, rates top of an informal poll of critics appearing daily in the
publication in Cannes.
Domestic critics are also supporting French family drama
A Christmas Tale
, starring Mathieu Amalric, while Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are aiming to win a third Golden Palm with their popular
South America is represented by four pictures in the main competition, three of which have been screened already.
Opening film Blindness, an English-language adaptation of Jose Saramago's novel of the same name about a plague of blindness sweeping the world, scored poorly with critics.
But the region's two subsequent entries impressed more - prison drama Leonera from Argentina and "Linha de Passe (Line of Passage) set in the slums of Sao Paulo.
"I haven't seen a South American film here that I think is good enough to win the Palme d'Or," Cousins said.
Jia Zhangke's Chinese documentary-style movie 24 City has divided opinion and the majority of reviews judged Philippine drama Serbis ("Service") a dud.
Hundreds more films are unveiled out of competition and critics thought Hunger, a powerful portrayal of Northern Irish militant Bobby Sands' fatal hunger strike, one of the best.
British director Terence Davies also impressed with his documentary about Liverpool Of Time and the City.
Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford were in town for the new Indiana Jones adventure, Woody Allen brought his Spanish comedy starring Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson, and boxer Mike Tyson hit the red carpet for a new documentary about him.
(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie and Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Robert Woodward)