PARIS - A Civil War film by Sofia Coppola, a Ukrainian road movie and a drama about AIDS activism are among 18 films competing for prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival, which organizers hope can help counter nationalist sentiment.
The festival is embracing virtual reality and cell phone video as it marks its 70th birthday this year. Festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux and President Pierre Lescure announced the dozens of films competing and showing during the May 17-28 festival at a press conference in Paris on Thursday.
Contenders for the Palme d'Or include Coppola's spooky Civil War drama "The Beguiled," starring Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst; American director Noah Baumbach's family saga "The Meyerowitz Stories," starring Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler; and fellow American Todd Haynes' 1920s-set drama "Wonderstruck."
Also in the top competition are "Okja," a fantasy thriller by South Korea's Bong Joon-Ho starring Tilda Swinton; French director Michel Hazanavicius' tribute to the French New Wave, "Le Redoubtable"; sex-trafficking drama "You Were Never Really Here" from Britain's Lynne Ramsay; and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," a thriller from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos starring Kidman and Colin Farrell.
Austere Austrian director Michael Haneke, a two-time Palme d'Or winner, returns with "Happy End," whose title, Fremaux noted, bears little relation to its content.
French filmmaker Robin Campillo's "120 Beats Per Minute" looks at the rise of AIDS activism, while Fremaux called Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa's "A Gentle Creature" a road movie "about the situation of Russia."
The festival is embracing changing technology, with inclusion of Alejandro G. Inarritu's virtual reality short "Meat and Honey," reported to be about migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Fremaux said it was "a beautiful film, you are shivering when you come out of it." He compared the wonders of virtual reality to the wonders unleashed by cinema founding fathers the Lumiere brothers more than a century ago.
Security will be tight for the French Riviera festival, just down the coast from Nice, where an Islamic State group-inspired truck attack killed 86 people in July.
Lescure said security was "at its maximum'' in 2016 and "there were no serious incidents."
"I hope to see the same results this year," he said.
Global events will cast a shadow over Cannes' Croisette, the town's picturesque seafront promenade, after a year that has seen Britain's vote to leave the European Union and the election of unpredictable U.S. President Donald Trump. France will have a new government by opening night, with the final stage of its two-round presidential election set for May 7. Far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen is among the front-runners.
Lescure said he hoped that "North Korea and Syria will not cast a shadow on the 70th edition, which we hope will be stable and happy."
Fremaux said he hopes the festival can "look to the future" and hold "the promise of living together in harmony."