Cannes braces for stars and protests

·3-min read
Twenty-one films are competing for the top prize at this year's Cannes film festival including a record seven women directors
Twenty-one films are competing for the top prize at this year's Cannes film festival including a record seven women directors

The Cannes Film Festival was preparing to roll out the red carpet on Monday for a starry edition featuring a comeback from divisive star Johnny Depp, and concerns over protests by French unions.

Some 35,000 people are expected for the festival's 76th edition, which kicks off Tuesday in the French Riviera town and runs to May 27.

Several big-name premieres are showing at the world's biggest cinema industry shindig, including "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny", Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon" starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and new Pixar film "Elemental".

Meanwhile, 21 films are competing for the top prize Palme d'Or, including a record seven women directors.

However, it is the opening film that is already making waves as Depp returns to the big screen in period drama "Jeanne du Barry," after a toxic court case involving domestic abuse allegations in his marriage to ex-wife Amber Heard.

Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Fremaux told a press conference he was not bothered by Depp's reputation in the United States, and that the 59-year-old actor had not been banned from acting.

"If there is anyone in the world who is not interested in this highly mediatised trial, it is me. I don't know what it is about. I am interested in Depp as an actor," he said.

The movie's director and lead actress is French star Maiwenn, an outspoken critic of the #MeToo movement, who was last month accused of assaulting a journalist in a Paris restaurant.

A record seven women directors are competing for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Fremaux said increasing female representation at the festival was a "fundamental question" but "I refuse congratulations, it is an evolution. We don't look at the gender, we select movies."

- Protest concerns -

Around a thousand police and security guards are in place for the festival, which has been held under a heightened security alert ever since a wave of terror attacks in France in the 2010s.

This year, organisers face additional worries that recent protests over President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms will affect the festival.

All protests are banned around the Croisette during the event, local authorities told AFP, adding that this was the same as previous years.

But the CGT union has vowed to make its presence felt -- threatening last month that it would cut power during the festival and announcing a "fixed" protest in front of the legendary Carlton Hotel on Friday.

The famous red carpet, 60 metres (60 yards) long, will be unrolled on Tuesday. These days, in a nod to environmental concerns, its size has been cut in two to save some 1,400 kilos of carpet.

The jury is led by last year's Palme d'Or winner, Ruben Ostlund, and also includes Hollywood stars Brie Larson and Paul Dano.

Several Palme laureates are back in competition, including Britain's two-time winner Ken Loach, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda and Germany's Wim Wenders.