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Film: Heavyweights in world cinema nominated for Cannes' top prize

Festival director Thierry Fremaux, left, and festival president Pierre Lescure are seen in front of the Cannes International Film Festival poster for the upcoming 72nd edition during a press conference to announce this year's line up in Paris, on April 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AP) -- Cannes Film Festival organizers announced its 2019 line-up Thursday, pitting leading names in world cinema including Ken Loach and Pedro Almodovar against each other in competition for the top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Festival veterans Loach and Almodovar, as well as the Dardenne Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Terrence Malick and Xavier Dolan -- all of whom have previously won accolades at the French Riviera festival -- will return for the May 14-25 event.

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 Almodovar 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.

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