Cannes kicks off with panda power

09:14, 15 May 2008
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The 61st Cannes Film Festival has begun in France

An invasion of panda bears has helped launch the 61st Cannes Film Festival, which has begun in France, according to BBC.

Comic actor Jack Black arrived by boat with 40 people in giant panda outfits to promote Kung Fu Panda, an animated tale of a bear who loves martial arts.

In an interview, he accidentally confirmed the open secret that co-star Angelina Jolie was expecting twins.

Dark Brazilian drama Blindness was the first film screened, in a change from the usual lighter opening fare.

Highlights of the next 12 days include the new Indiana Jones film`s debut.

Harrison Ford will be among the stars flying in on Sunday for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is screening out of competition.

Black, who provides the voice of lead character Po in Kung Fu Panda, performed twirls and kicks at the Carlton Hotel pier before posing for pictures with people who have provided the voice of Po in different languages around the world.

In a joint interview with Black, Angelina Jolie confirmed that she was expecting twins with husband Brad Pitt after Black referred to them.

The twins will be the couple`s fifth and sixth children.

Despite Black`s faux pas, the festival`s official opening film struck a more downbeat note. Julianne Moore joined director Fernando Meirelles to promote Blindness, about an epidemic that causes people to lose their vision.

Meirelles said it was both a pressure and an honour to open Cannes, but added: "To be honest, I still don`t think this is the best film to open a festival."

Moore called the choice "kind of odd". Asked why she had agreed to act in Blindness soon after starring in another bleak movie, Children of Men, she replied: "I like the apocalypse.

"Movies don`t predict, they reflect culture," she added. "I think we`re reflecting what we`re feeling in our own culture."

Consensus choice

Some 22 films are in competition for the Palme d`Or, including Blindness, Clint Eastwood`s Changeling and Synecdoche New York, the directorial debut of Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

The jury is led by actor Sean Penn, who said he hoped for a civilised debate over the award.

"In my view it won`t be a competition, we will come to a consensus," he said.

The actor, who was Oscar nominated for his role in Clint Eastwood`s Mystic River, also played down suggestions of favouritism towards his former colleague.

"I don`t know how many movies Clint Eastwood has made since I was born in 1960, but the bastard`s only offered me one - so I don`t think there`s any bias involved," he said.

But Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, whose credits include Harry Potter and Y Tu Mama Tambien, was less circumspect. "In my case, I`m rooting for the Mexican movie," he said.

No British films feature this year, but Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said the choice of films should be judged over "four or five years", rather than just one.

"There are no English films this year, but let`s hope to have more next year," he said.

He also noted that Hunger, a film by first-time British director Steve McQueen, was opening the festival`s secondary competition, Un Certain Regard.

The film portrays the last weeks in the life of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died in prison after refusing food for 66 days in 1981.

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