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Controversy hounds Cannes

The controversy starts on the very first day with the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code.

india Updated: May 15, 2006 19:21 IST

The 2006 Cannes International Film Festival, which opens on Wednesday, will feature its usual large serving of glamour, a healthy dose of controversy, a generous offering of contemporary politics and a new generation of talented film makers.

The controversy starts on the very first day with the world premiere of the most eagerly awaited film in many years, The Da Vinci Code.

Before shooting of Ron Howard's movie of Dan Brown's blockbuster book was wrapped up, Christian groups around the world were complaining that it attacks the foundations of Christianity by raising doubts about the divinity of Jesus Christ and the origins of the Bible.

Christian leaders in the US, where the film opens May 19, have threatened a variety of protest actions, including boycotts.

The Catholic organisation Opus Dei has demanded that a disclaimer be attached to the film declaring it as a work of fiction.

Howard has refused, saying: "Spy thrillers don't start off with disclaimers."

Screening The Da Vinci Code on opening night ensures that the Cannes film festival will start off with a huge media bang.

Media attention will remain high because of the showing of films concerning two hot political issues, the environment and terrorism.

The films are An Inconvenient Truth, featuring failed US presidential candidate Al Gore as a crusading environmentalist, United 93, a Paul Greengrass recreation of the downing of the fourth and final plane hijacked by Islamist terrorists September 11, 2001, and a 30-minute clip from Oliver Stone's World Trade Center.

The glamour also begins on opening night, with Da Vinci stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou climbing the red-carpeted stairway of the Festivals Palace.

Other stars expected to climb those mythic steps during the festival include Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Marianne Faithfull, Bruce Willis, Halle Berry, Ethan Hawke, Juliette Binoche and Bob Hoskins.

And if the state of Angelina Jolie's pregnancy allows it, Brad Pitt will also show up to help present Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel.

The Mexican director is part of what Cannes festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux has described as "the up-and-coming generation" of film makers that will be challenging established stars of world cinema for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award for best film.

Of the 20 films vying for the Palme d'Or, one of the most prestigious awards in world cinema, a surprisingly large number are by relatively young or little-known directors.

In addition to Inarritu, these include the Uruguayan-born Adrian Caetano, the 36-year-old Italian Paolo Sorrentino, Shanghai's Lou Ye, and three young American Cannes first-timers, Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater and Richard Kelly.

In fact, Fremaux has suggested that youth was one of the selection criteria for this year's Cannes festival.

"The selection for 2006 is to be classified in the category of 'years of renewal'," Fremaux said. "We wanted to put new names on the international map and show films whose presence at Cannes will astonish."

But many of the young filmmakers chosen to compete have already established their credentials with fans and critics alike.

Coppola, who will be showing Marie Antoinette at Cannes, directed the 2003 international hit Lost in Translation, while Gonzalez Inarritu made another box office smash that same year, the quirky 21 Grams.

In addition, Kelly wrote and directed Donnie Darko, and Richard Linklater, who will have two films screened at Cannes this year, is best known for the critically acclaimed Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy romances Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004).

These young talents will be pitted against such established stars as Pedro Almodovar of Spain, Finland's eccentric genius Aki Kaurismaki, Britain's Ken Loach and Nanni Moretti of Italy.

Among these long time Cannes favourites, the 56-year-old Almodovar is universally considered a giant of world cinema. His films have harvested dozens of awards around the world. His 1999 hit "All About My Mother" won both the best director's award at Cannes and the Oscar for best foreign film.

Kaurismaki is another Cannes veteran, having won the festival's Grand Prix in 2002 for his popular Man Without a Past.

The festival ends on May 28 with the awards ceremony.

First Published: May 15, 2006 13:21 IST