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French film fest pays tribute to Spike Lee

Published on September 05, 2008

5 September 2008

DEAUVILLE — US stars were set to descend on the posh French resort of Deauville Friday for the Festival of American Cinema which pays tribute to maverick African-American director Spike Lee this year.

Ed Harris, Samuel L Jackson, Kevin Spacey and John Malkovich are among the big names due to walk up the red carpet in the annual bash that ends on 14 September with the award of the festival’s Grand Prize and Jury Prize.

The jury headed by French actress Carole Bouquet will choose from an 11-strong competition line-up of independent American films, among them "Towelhead" by Alan Ball, with Aaron Eckhart, "Smart People" by Noam Murro, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Page, and "Afterschool" by Antonio Campos.

Last year "The Dead Girl" by Karen Moncrieff scooped the top prize.

Spike Lee will get a full retrospective of his work, and was set next Wednesday to present the European premiere of his latest film, "Miracle at Santa Anna," which he says shows the forgotten contribution of African-American soldiers in World War II.

Two former members of the legendary Swedish pop group ABBA, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, were due to join "Mamma Mia!" director Phyllida Lloyd later Friday for the opening night of the 34th edition of the festival.

The 1970s pop act, which split in 1982, has been back in the charts in recent months due to the release of "Mamma Mia!", the film adaptation of a long-running musical based on ABBA hits.

The festival programme features around 100 films, split between new features, the "Uncle Sam Docs" documentary section, and classics.

Deauville suffers from being held at the same time as the more high-profile Venice and Toronto film festivals, but is nevertheless France’s most prestigious movie event after Cannes.

The town on France’s Normandy coast, whose casinos, horse races and classy hotels attract the international jet-set, always manages to reel in a bevy of US stars to the September festival.

In 2007, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie turned up. The festival organisers say 55,000 tickets were sold for films at its 2007 edition.

Star power this year comes in the form of people like Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, due here to present "Appaloosa," a Western which Harris directed and in which he plays a rogue marshal.

The festival this year is paying special tribute to Harris and will screen a selection of movies he has starred in.

Samuel L Jackson was expected with director Neil LaBute for "Lakeview Terrace," which has Jackson play an uptight cop who harasses the racially mixed couple who live next door to him.

Kevin Spacey was also set to travel to Deauville to present "Recount" which chronicles the turbulent weeks in Florida after the 2000 US presidential election.

The festival also will honour actress Parker Posey and director Charles Burnett.

[AFP / Expatica]