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Politics Not A Bedfellow At Cannes

Cannes is where "Fahrenheit 9/11" caught fire, winning the film festival's top prize last year and putting the heat on the White House. This time, organizers want to avoid that kind of political firestorm.

As a new edition of the French Riviera festival opens Wednesday, May 11, its director has a reminder for the jury: Movies are usually judged for their art, not their politics.

"Michael Moore's talent is not in doubt," director Gilles Jacob said. "But in this case, it was a question of a satirical tract that was awarded a prize more for political than cinematographic reasons, no matter what the jury said."

The film's acclaim by the nine-member jury (led by director Quentin Tarantino) was an "out-of-the-ordinary event that probably won't be repeated," Jacob said.

Of the 21 films in this year's main competition, none of them look likely to match the political punch of "Fahrenheit."

An Iraqi film will compete for the first time. "Kilometre Zero" is set not in present-day Iraq but in 1988, during the country's war with Iran. Other selections include films from China, Belgium and Mexico.

The festival opens Wednesday evening with the French thriller "Lemming," centered on two couples, a dinner party and a rodent stuck in the pipes of the kitchen sink.

"I have a taste for the strange," director Dominik Moll told France's Le Figaro newspaper. Moll made the hit thriller "With a Friend Like Harry," where the title character turned out to be a deranged creep instead of a pal.

Cannes' 12-day lineup includes many Cannes regulars, including Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, Wim Wenders, Lars von Trier, Atom Egoyan and Gus Van Sant.

Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" stars Viggo Mortensen as a diner owner who has a deadly encounter with burglars; Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies," with Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, is about a comedy duo whose careers end in scandal; and "Sin City," the noirish action film, features Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba.

Cannes, which tries for a mix of small international films and big Hollywood blockbusters, will get its biggest boost of celebrity power from "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." The movie plays out of competition here days before its May 19 theatrical debut.

Allen's film is also not competing for prizes. The New York director, who won a career achievement award at Cannes in 2002, departed from his habitual Manhattan locals to shoot "Match Point" in London. The cast includes Scarlett Johannson, Emily Mortimer and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

This year's jury is led by Sarajevo-born director Emir Kusturica, one of the most respected figures in European film and a two-time winner of Cannes' top honor. Known for his whimsical, folkloric style, he won the Palme d'Or for 1985's "When Father Was Away on Business" and 1995's "Underground."

Other jury members include Mexican actress Salma Hayek, U.S. author Toni Morrison, Spanish actor Javier Bardem and action director John Woo. The jury will present its awards at a closing ceremony on May 21.