Strong Asian line-up for Cannes Film Festival

PARIS (AFP) - The organisers of the Cannes Film Festival on April 16 unveiled a line-up this year that confirms burgeoning talent from Asia and Australia, while throwing in a couple of crowd-pleasing big-budget pictures alongside a slew of arthouse offerings.

The selection for the official sections - including those vying for Cannes's Palme d'Or top prize - heralded a wide range: from intimate, auteur movies right up to action-driven spectaculars.

The list is "beautiful, it's new, it poses questions, it takes risks, and it says much about the state of global creativity," festival director Thierry Fremaux said.

The strong Asian contingent includes Chinese director Jia Zhangke's Mountains May Depart; Taiwanese martial arts pic The Assassin directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Japanese drama Umimachi Diary directed Hirokazu Koreeda.

America is present with Carol, a lesbian drama starring Cate Blanchett, and The Sea of Trees with Matthew McConaughey, both in the race for the Palme d'Or.

Woody Allen's latest, Irrational Man, along with Pixar animation Inside Out and an American retelling of the French classic The Little Prince, and also US-Israeli actress Natalie Portman's directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, are all scheduled for out-of-competition screenings.

Epic big-screen stunts at Cannes will be guaranteed with the previously announced worldwide premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road, Australia's latest addition to the sci-fi franchise that made Mel Gibson famous. This time, the title role goes to hunky British actor Tom Hardy, with Charlize Theron co-starring.

Sicario, a Canadian-directed movie starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro in a tale about a CIA operation to bring down a Mexican cartel boss, will add more star-power.

The festival's opening-night movie, however, will be uncharacteristically low-key with Standing Tall, a French drama about a juvenile delinquent starring Catherine Deneuve as a children's court judge.

Here are the movies announced, with nationality assigned according to its director. The rundown is not yet complete, with a couple of movies yet to be added before the 11-day festival opens on May 13. The jury deciding the Palme d'Or is headed by the Cohen brothers, Joel and Ethan, who themselves won the prize in 1991 with Barton Fink.

For Competition

- Dheepan by French director Jacques Audiard

- A Simple Man by French director Stephane Brize

- Marguerite and Julien by French director Valerie Donzelli

- The Tale of Tales by Italian director Matteo Garrone

- Carol by US director Todd Haynes: a lesbian love story set in New York in the 1950s starring Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

- The Assassin, a martial arts film by Taiwanese director Hsiao-Hsien Hou

- Mountains May Depart by Chinese director Zhangke Jia: a story about lovers who separate in China, with the son of one exiled to Australia

- Umimachi Diary by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, about sisters living in the home of their grandmother

- Macbeth by Australian director Justin Kurzel: a movie version of Shakespeare's classic starring X-Men actor Michael Fassbender and French Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and mostly shot in Britain

- The Lobster by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos: starring Colin Farrel and with Rachel Weisz, this is a love story set in a dystopian future where single people need to find a mate quickly or be transformed into animals

- Mon Roi (My King) by French director Maiwenn and starring Vincent Cassel

- Mia Madre (My Mother) by Italian director and Cannes favourite Nanni Moretti

- Son of Saul by Hungarian film director Laszlo Nemes, about an Auschwitz prisoner in World War II

- Youth by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, starring Rachel Weisz and featuring Michael Caine, Jane Fonda and Harvey Keitel

- Louder Than Bombs by Norwegian director Joachim Trier and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne and Isabelle Huppert in a drama about the husband and son of a female war photographer discovering a secret about her after her death

- The Sea of Trees by US director Gus Van Sant and starring Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts: about a suicidal American who meets and befriends a Japanese man lost in a forest

- Sicario by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro in a story about a CIA operation to bring down a Mexican cartel boss