Cannes award selection wide open after the crowded return of the film festival

CANNES, France, July 17 (Reuters) – A Moroccan film about hip-hop youth in Casablanca, a hero’s tale by Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and a highly imaginative French film featuring sex with a car are featured among the contenders for the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize on Saturday, in one of the most unpredictable contests in years.

The world’s largest film festival has returned to the French Riviera after a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, drawing a host of movie stars to the red carpet, from Bill Murray and Matt Damon to Sharon Stone .

The frantic 12 days of premieres and late dinners were quieter than usual. Attendance was less and many nautical evenings organized off Cannes have disappeared.

However, the competition was more intense than ever, with 24 films vying for the Palme d’Or for Best Picture, up from 21 in 2019.

Critics have said there are few sure-fire winners this time around, in a contest that may depend on the whims of the jury – led for this edition by “Do The Right Thing” director Spike Lee.

South Korean Bong Joon-ho won in 2019 with the dark and comedic social satire “Parasite,” an early favorite, which won an unprecedented Oscar for Best Picture for a non-English entry.

Iranian Farhadi, who has already impressed the juries of Cannes but has never won the Palme, is among those who make the buzz with “A Hero”, about an indebted inmate facing a dilemma when his little one friend finds a bag of gold coins.

“Drive My Car” by Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, a tale of heartbreak, loss and new connections adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, has also received critical acclaim. And many warmed to Joachim Trier’s modern love story “The Worst Person in the World”.

Some have said that more unconventional releases, like the serial killer film “Titanium” by 37-year-old French director Julia Ducournau, deserve attention.

Renan Cros, journalist and film professor at Esec University, said “Titanium” was a daring attempt to push the boundaries of genres.

“If Spike Lee and his jury want to celebrate the future, it’s clearly Julia Ducournau,” he said.

Cros also chose “Casablanca Beats” by Moroccan Nabil Ayouch, about Moroccan youth trying to find their voice, as a candidate.

The winners will be announced on Saturday evening at a ceremony starting at 5:25 p.m. GMT, with the top prize usually being released a few hours later.

“Memoria” by Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and “Paris 13e arrondissement” by Jacques Audiard have also made preselections of potential riders and riders.

Some of the most star-studded entries failed to generate the awards buzz, most notably “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson, which received mixed reviews, and “Flag Day” by Sean Penn.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Richard Chang

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