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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Frears defends UK Cannes effort
By Stephen Robb
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

Stephen Frears with actress Toni Colette
Frears played down alarm over the lack of British films
Cannes jury president Stephen Frears has defended the British film industry amid concerns at the absence of UK movies in competition at the festival.

"I don't think you can actually read anything into that," he said, adding releases were "a matter of timing".

But Frears, who directed The Queen, said the UK government did "not enough" to support film-making.

The 60th Cannes Film Festival is under way, with stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts due to attend.

Among the 22 films vying for the Palme d'Or top prize are several high-profile US releases including Tarantino's Death Proof, Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country For Old Men, David Fincher's Zodiac and Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park.

Complex deals

The absence of UK films comes a year after British director Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or for The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and Andrea Arnold's Red Road took the jury prize.

Ken Loach
British director Ken Loach took the Palme d'Or last year
At the jury press conference on the opening day of the festival, Frears said: "I think the fact that there aren't any British films here is of no significance at all.

"Films are distributed in complicated ways," he said, adding that Loach was working on a new film expected to be ready for the Venice Film Festival in August.

"It's just a matter of timing."

But he added: "It's very difficult for British film-makers and anything that makes their life easier is good.

"Do I think the government supports films in Britain? Well, clearly not enough."

'Successful industry'

British film-maker Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie, screens out of competition in Cannes.

Control, about the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is part of the Director's Fortnight sidebar.

In a statement, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said a total of 95 UK films were being marketed at the festival.

Cannes Festival Palace
Frears praised the festival for offering an alternative to Hollywood
"British film is in great shape," the statement said, pointing to a recent "wave of international success with The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Notes on a Scandal and The History Boys".

"The government is committed to ensuring that success continues by helping create a sustainable, stable and successful film industry.

"We have introduced a new generous and competitive tax relief system which we hope will help the UK's film industry to thrive in 2007 and beyond."

The competition jury includes actresses Maggie Cheung from Hong Kong and Toni Collette, from Australia, as well as Turkey's Nobel-winning author Orhan Pamuk.

Artistic merit

Frears paid tribute to Cannes for celebrating movies that were an "alternative to just the films that American studios make".

"All you want is for a variety of films to be made, so you can go out and behave like a grown-up and see the films you want to see."

The festival opens on Wednesday with the world premiere of My Blueberry Nights, directed by last year's jury president Wong Kar Wai.

The cult Hong Kong director's first English-language movie features Jude Law and Grammy-winning singer Norah Jones's debut performance.

Films officially screened at Cannes are chosen by two committees. One selects foreign films on artistic merit and the other chooses three French films which automatically make it through the to the official selection.

The festival runs until 27 May.


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