2006 Cannes Film Festival Preview

Filmmakers, celebrities and the international media will descend on the French Riviera for the "grand dame" of the international film festival circuit: the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on May 17.

More than 60 films representing dozens of countries were selected by the official festival committee for screening, including 48 world premieres. The Official Selection is divided up between films presented in the Competition, Un Certain Regard and Out of Competition screenings.

The festival kicks off May 17 with the Out of Competition premiere of Ron Howard's "The Da Vinci Code" starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou. Three other Hollywood films screening, but not competing, during the 11-day festival are Paul Greengrass' "United 93," Brett Ratner's "X-Men: The Last Stand" and Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick's animated feature "Over The Hedge."

There are 20 films from 13 countries in the Competition category, which will compete for the festival's top prizes, including the Palme D'Or (Golden Palm) and the Grand Prix (Grand Prize). Among the films competing in the Competition this year are:

"Volver" a comedy directed by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar ("All About My Mother," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"). The film stars Almodovar regular Carmen Maura as a ghost who comes back to her hometown to right the wrongs of her life. Penelope Cruz stars as her daughter.

"The Wind That Shakes The Barley" by British director Ken Loach ("Sweet Sixteen," "Bread and Roses".) The historical drama is a sympathetic portrayal of Irish Republicans in the early 20th Century.

"Marie-Antoinette" by Sofia Coppola ("Lost In Translation", "The Virgin Suicides") stars Kirsten Dunst as the famous French queen and Jason Schwartzman as King Louis XVI.

"Babel" by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu ("21 Grams," "Amores Perros") stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal. The drama weaves together separate stories of four sets of strangers across three continents who are connected by a single tragic event.

"Fast Food Nation" directed by Richard Linklater ("Bad News Bears," "School of Rock") and starring Patricia Arquette, Bobby Cannavale, Greg Kinnear, Avril Lavigne and Catalina Sandino Moreno. The ensemble drama is inspired by Eric Schlosser's 2001 expose of the fast food industry.

"Southland Tales" directed by Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko"). The film is an ensemble sci-fi musical comedy starring The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mandy Moore. Others in the huge cast include Justin Timberlake, Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz and John Larroquette.

The Un Certain Regard films — mostly from new filmmakers or seasoned pros who are experimenting with new forms — will compete for a separate prize. The first film in the selection will be "Paris Je T'aime," a series of five-minute love stories filmed against the background of the City of Lights by 20 different international directors including France's Gérard Depardieu, Mexico's Alfonso Cuaron, and American filmmakers Gus Van Sant and Joel & Ethan Coen.

Awards will be handed out at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, May 28. The award for the best film in the Un Certain Regard selection will be given in a special ceremony the previous day.

In addition to the Official Selection, the festival will offer both a shorts and film schools competition, a classic films series, and outdoor screenings for festival goers as well as locals.

Restored prints of several important films will be screened at the festival, including Sergei M. Eisenstein's 1927 drama "Oktyabr," John Ford's Western "The Searchers" and Oliver Stone's 1986 war epic "Platoon." Stone is also expected to debut footage from his upcoming September 11 drama, "World Trade Center."

As always, the festival will be a star-studded event. Celebrities scheduled to attend the parties, red carpet premieres and international press conferences include Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Penelope Cruz, Kirsten Dunst, Judy Davis, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, The Rock, Sean William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gérard Depardieu, Vincent Lindon, Fanny Ardant, Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gena Rowlands, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Kris Kristofferson.

Other Festival Highlights

The All the Cinemas of the World program is offering an exhibition showcase of films from seven new countries: Russia, Israel, Singapore, Switzerland, Venezuela, Tunisia and Chile.

The International Village, which promotes the world film industries, is welcoming 11 new countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, India, Morocco, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Thailand.

The Short Film Corner, dedicated to their promotion, presents 800 works from nearly 50 countries, for the most part unreleased, and holds numerous thematic roundtables.

Actress Gena Rowlands will teach the Actors Master Class and director Sidney Pollack will conduct the Cinema Master Class. He will also screen his new documentary, "Sketches of Frank Ghery."

The official feature film jury includes: jury president and Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, Italian actress Monica Bellucci, English actress Helena Bonham Carter, Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, American actor Samuel L. Jackson, French director Patrice Leconte, English director-actor Tim Roth and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman.

The official Cinefondation and short films jury includes: jury president and Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, French actress Sandrine Bonnaire, German actor Daniel Bruhl, Malian director Souleymane Cisse and Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner.