PARIS (Reuters) - Actor and director Sean Penn will head the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival, the organizers announced on Thursday, a move that could reinforce the event's reputation for supporting left-wing causes.
The Oscar-winning actor has strongly criticized President George W. Bush, in particular over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and civil liberties. He visited Iraq before the attack and also traveled to Tehran on a reporting trip in 2005.
In 2004, the Cannes festival awarded its top prize, the Palme d'Or, to U.S. director Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
"It seems there has been a rejuvenation of cinema building worldwide; increasingly thoughtful, provocative, moving, and imaginative films by talented filmmakers: that a new generation of filmmaking may have begun," Penn said in the festival's statement announcing his appointment.
"The Cannes Film Festival has long been the epicenter in the discovery of those new waves of filmmakers from all over the world. I very much look forward to participating in this year's festival as president of the jury," Penn added.
Last month, Penn's wilderness drama "Into the Wild" topped the list of nominees for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which often indicate who will be nominated for the film industry's top honors, the Oscars.
The 61st Cannes Festival will take place on May 14-25.
Reporting by Francois Murphy, editing by Paul Casciato