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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
US and France unite at Cannes

By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online Entertainment staff in Cannes

Political differences between the US and France over war with Iraq will not affect this year's Cannes jury, which includes both nations, its head has said.

French director Patrice Chereau, who is chairing this year's jury of 10, including Americans Meg Ryan and Steven Soderbergh, said the focus would be firmly on the films.

"There are three French people and two Americans on the jury - the fact we are all here proves we can still talk to each other," said Chereau, who directed the controversial film Intimacy in 2001.

Patrice Chereau, poses for photographe with Meg Ryan and French Karin Viard
The jury showed a united front

There had been speculation that differences of opinion between the two nations might mean a lack of US presence for the prestigious French festival.

But Oscar-winning director Soderbergh, whose work includes Erin Brockovich and Traffic, said there had been no reason for him not to come to Cannes.

"No one said anything to me about not coming to the festival," he said, and would not be drawn further on the subject.

Actress Meg Ryan, who is starring in Jane Campion's upcoming film In the Cut, which she described as an "erotic thriller", also steered away from commenting on the war.

"We're celebrating a creative process and I'm very happy to be here," she said.

All of the jurors said how honoured they were to be choosing which film will win the Palme d'Or prize.

Cannes jury
The Palme d'Or is chosen by the jury

Soderbergh added that winning the main prize at Cannes in 1990 for Sex, Lies and Videotape. his first film. had been a huge surprise and had made a great difference to his career.

"I was created by Cannes Film Festival," he said. "It made a name for me outside the US and allowed me to go and make lots of mistakes - a real luxury."

His fellow juror, the Bosnia-Herzegovina-born director Danis Tanovic, also spoke of the difference a win at Cannes can make.

He won best screenplay at Cannes (2001) and best foreign film Oscar (2002) for No Man¿s Land, which was set during the Bosnian war.

"There are thousands of movies made each year so to get the spotlight is amazing," he said. "When we won we were happy people - it changed my life."

Bollywood actress and Devdas star Aisahwarya Rai said she, like Ryan, was keen to learn even more about film from her fellow jurors.

Penelope Cruz
Penelope Cruz's film will open the festival

Rai told the BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava: " It's an honour. To be a part of the international film at Cannes, it's like the Oscar of film festivals.

"But its also a responsibility and I don't forget that for a single minute."

Both actresses said they were like "students" on the distinguished jury, which also includes Chinese actor and director Jiang Wen and French actor Jean Rochefort.

The annual two-week event is the most important film festival in the world and will be the venue for scores of screenings, parties and deals.

Highlights include star-studded premières being held for The Matrix Reloaded and Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Danish auteur Lars von Trier.

The BBC's Clare Lyons
"The American film industry is here in force"


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