"The Class" to open NY Film Festival

Tue Jul 15, 2008 8:19pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Organizers of the New York Film Festival said on Tuesday they will open this fall's event with the North American premiere of French director Laurent Cantet's "Entre les Murs" (The Class), winner of this year's top prize at Cannes.

The New York festival, which opens in late September, is one of the top cinema gatherings in the United States and tends to showcase art-oriented and international films, distinguishing it from the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan in April that features some Hollywood studio fare.

"Entre les Murs" became the first French film in 21 years to claim the coveted Palme d'Or award at Cannes, the world's biggest film festival, after captivating the notoriously picky audience of film industry insiders and journalists there.

Casting real teachers and students who were taught to act, French director Cantet goes inside a Paris high school to paint a portrait of growing up in modern-day France dealing with issues of race, class and individuality.

"Laurent Cantet has pioneered a new kind of social cinema. 'The Class' is the finest example yet of this filmmaker's important work, and we're delighted to have it open this year's New York Film Festival," Richard Pena, the festival's selection committee chair, said in a statement.

Based on an autobiographical novel by Francois Begaudeau, "Entre les Murs" comes to theaters at a time when the problems in France's often-overcrowded schools have been highlighted by strikes and protests by teachers and pupils.

With memories still vivid of the 2005 riots in poor, multiethnic suburbs around many French cities, the film also taps into a wider debate about the place of young people of immigrant backgrounds in French society.

The 46th New York Film Festival will hold two showcases throughout its run from September 26 through October 12.

The first, "In the Realm of Oshima," looks at the work of Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima, and the second, Views from the Avant-Garde, features Guy Debord's "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni."

(Reporting by Nancy Leinfuss; editing by Michelle Nichols and Bob Tourtellotte)

<p>French director Laurent Cantet (R) is surrounded by students as he poses with the Palme d'Or award for his film "Entre les Murs (The Class)" during the award ceremony at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 25, 2008. REUTERS/John Schults</p>