Quebec filmmakers Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri to debut films at Cannes festival

PARIS — Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan is returning to the Cannes Film Festival with his latest Montreal-shot feature, "Matthias & Maxime."

In announcing the 2019 lineup Thursday, officials said the French-language drama will make its debut in official competition for the top prize, the Palme d'Or.

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Dolan wrote, directed and stars in the story of two childhood friends, now in their late 20s, who find their lives upended when they have to kiss while performing in an amateur film at a party.

Dolan has debuted films at Cannes several times before, including "It's Only the End of the World," which won the Grand Prix prize at the 2016 festival.

Another Quebec filmmaker, Monia Chokri, will also be at Cannes with "La femme de mon frère," which she wrote and directed. The drama will screen in the Un Certain Regard section.

Chokri is also an acclaimed actress and has appeared in some of Dolan's films, including "Heartbeats" and "Laurence Anyways."

Overall this year's Cannes festival pits leading names in world cinema against each other in competition for the Palme d'Or.

Festival veterans Ken Loach and Pedro Almodóvar will also return for the May 14-25 event, as well as the Dardenne brothers, Jim Jarmusch and Terrence Malick — all of whom have previously won accolades at the French Riviera festival.

Four female directors were among the 19 nominated in the main category. They are Jessica Hausner for "Little Joe," Mati Diop for "Atlantiques," Celine Schiamma for "Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire" and Justine Triet for "Sibyl."

The last time four women were also nominated at Cannes was in 2011, when that number set a record for the festival. Last year, organizers pledged to raise the prominence of female filmmakers at festivals. A total of 13 women were included in the official selection this year — although male artists still dominate.

Jarmusch's "The Dead Don't Die," a zombie comedy starring Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Chloe Sevigny as police officers protecting a small town, will open the festival on a starry and surreal note.

This is not the first time Jarmusch has competed for the Palme at Cannes using the undead — his 2013 "Only Lovers Left Alive" featured erudite vampires.

Jarmusch is in the running along with other Americans including Malick, who returns after "Tree of Life" won the Palme d'Or in 2011 with the long-awaited "A Hidden Life," about an Austrian anti-Nazi conscientious objector who was executed in 1943. Memphis-born Ira Sachs will present "Frankie" starring Isabelle Huppert.

There was dismay that Quentin Tarantino missed out from being included with the highly anticipated "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. Cannes Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux lamented to critics during the press conference that the movie was still in editing — explaining that Tarantino's insistence on using laborious 35mm will delay its completion.

Spanish director Almodóvar will be back on the festival's red carpeted steps with the new film "Pain and Glory" — a self-referential movie about an aging filmmaker played by Antonio Banderas, alongside longtime muse Penelope Cruz. It's been compared to Italian filmmaker Fellini's masterpiece "8 1?2."

Oscar-winning director Alejandro Inarritu will be jury president although the jury members have not yet been announced.

Other highlights of the festival will include a biopic of singer Elton John called "Rocketman," which will be screened out of competition and was directed by Dexter Fletcher. The aging rocker will bring his own inimitable brand of star power to the festival when he attends the screening.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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