Global names on Cannes jury to decide coveted Palme

PARIS – The makeup of this year’s Cannes jury, headed by US actor Robert De Niro, means the coveted Palme d’Or’s winner will have global approval, with actors and directors from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.

De Niro, 67, is the third American in four years to head the jury of the world’s most prestigious film festival, which starts on Wednesday, after director Tim Burton in 2010 and actor-director Sean Penn in 2008.

Burton’s jury selected Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s art house film “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” for the Palme d’Or and many are hoping that this year’s winner will be more accessible.

The nine-member jury also features Hong Kong director Johnny To and film producer Shi Nansun, who is also the wife of director Tsui Hark. Shi produced “Infernal Affairs”, which Martin Scorsese remade as “The Departed” in 2006.

French director Olivier Assayas, an aficionado of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema who has cast Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung in his films even after their 2004 divorce, is also a juror.

Assayas wrote about cinema and co-authored scripts with France’s Andre Techine before making his first film, “Disorder”, in 1986

To, 56, is a Cannes regular, having shown five times at the world’s biggest film festival, most recently in 2009 with the crime film “Vengeance”.

From Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s favourite Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) and Britain’s Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) join Chadian director Saleh Haroun, whose feature “A Screaming Man” won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2010.

War forced Haroun to move to France where he worked as a journalist before making his first film in 1994.

Thurman played opposite De Niro in “Mad Dog and Glory”, which was presented at Cannes in 1993.

Norwegian author and critic Linn Ullmann, who is the daughter of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and one of his muses, Liv Ullmann, is also on the jury.

She came to the 1997 Cannes festival to receive the “Palme des Palmes” on behalf of her father.

Argentina’s Martina Gusman studied to be an artist in Buenos Aires before taking up acting and then producing.

Twenty films, the lion’s share from European directors, are in the running for the Palme d’Or, including “The Skin I Live In,” the latest feature from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

Serbian director Emir Kusturica is chairing the jury that will judge the parallel Un Certain Regard section of the festival, and South Korean directors Bong Joon-Ho and Lee Chang-Dong are overseeing the panels deciding the Camera d’Or for best film and the Critics’ Week prizes respectively.

Presiding over the short-film jury is French film-maker Michel Gondry.

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