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Finnish, Palestinian films lead race for Cannes award
( 2002-05-25 09:46 ) (7 )

The Cannes Film Festival, the world's top showcase for cinema, was winding down Saturday on the eve of its prize-winning ceremony that will see one of 22 films in competition honoured with the Palme d'Or, or Golden Palm.

Event officials were preparing to host the star-studded event Sunday under tight, post-September 11 security.

The audience is to include many international celebrities, among them Sharon Stone, Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Although the final selection of the jury + which included Stone and Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh and which was presided over by US director David Lynch + is almost possible to predict, critics among the 4,000 journalists covering Cannes have come up with a shortlist of favourites.

At the top are "The Man Without a Past", a tale about a man with amnesia reconstructing his life on the margins of society, by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, and "Divine Intervention" by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, which looks at a Palestinian couple's relationship under Israeli occupation.

But close behind are several other movies that homed in on the general theme that ran right through most of the competing films of ordinary people confronting hardship.

"About Schmidt", which sees Nicholson playing a retired US executive in the Midwest coping with the failure of his life, and "All of Nothing" by Britain's Mike Leigh about a London working-class couple struggling with life and love, have also gained accolades.

A documentary about guns and violence in America, "Bowling for Columbine", by US satirist Michael Moore is also thought to have a good shot at walking off with the Palme, and generated huge interest at screenings.

This year's festival started slowly, overshadowed by the special screenings of two films out of competition: Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending", which resulted in the US director making an unprecedented appearance at Cannes, and "Star Wars: Episode II + Attack of the Clones", presented by George Lucas simultaneously with its global release.

But from there, the selections gathered momentum, impressing reviewers with varied and rich pictures, many of them from Cannes veterans like Leigh, Ken Loach, David Cronenberg and Alexander Sokurov.

The star wattage was also exceptional this year, with Pierce Brosnan popping up to promote the next James Bond movie, Elizabeth Taylor fronting for an exclusive AIDS charity party, and Martin Scorsese and Miramax studio boss Harvey Weinstein clearing the air over their upcoming "Gangs of New York", a 20-minute excerpt of which was shown.

The market end of Cannes, where millions of dollars of movie deals are signed, also powered along despite the general downturn in many countries' economies.



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