Zombies will once again kick off Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival will open on its 75th anniversary next month with the screening of a film about zombies, Z (Comme Z) by Michel Hazanavicius, director of the award-winning film The Artist.

“It’s a zombie comedy that evokes passion for cinema,” festival director Thierry Fremaux told a news conference on Thursday, recalling that the 2019 event had kicked off with a film from Jim Jarmusch on the same theme.

The festival runs from May 17-28 and will feature heavy-hitters including Tom Cruise’s Top Gun sequel and an Elvis biopic by Baz Luhrmann starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks.

Organizers have said the competition will include James Gray’s Armageddon Time, a drama with Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, and Anthony Hopkins, and a screening of Three Thousand Years of Longing by George Miller, with a cast including Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.

The festival, which announced in March it would ban official Russian delegations from the event unless the conflict in Ukraine ends, will feature Tchaikovski’s Wife by exiled Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who has been outspoken about the war.

In the category of first-time projects, the festival will feature a debut film from Maksim Nakonechnyi, shot recently in Ukraine. Entitled Butterfly Vision, it traces the story of a young Ukrainian woman who returns to her country after being captured then released in a prisoner swap.

Fremaux signaled an openness to platforms like Netflix while acknowledging he still had to try to convince those who disagreed with him.

“It’s clear we have to acknowledge the existence of these new types of distribution and production, I think we need to maintain a dialogue with them,” he said.

Fremaux drew criticism from the French movie theatre industry in 2017 by allowing Netflix films — seen as a threat to the industry because they are streamed to subscribers rather than shown in cinemas — into the Cannes competition.

Meanwhile, movie theatres around the world continue to face the challenge of bringing back audiences.

“I hope the Cannes Film Festival will serve as a spark for the return of audiences to the movies, but for the moment there is not a big return and some countries are suffering from a loss of interest,” he said.