History shows prescient picks

These days, no self-respecting film festival can hope to be taken seriously without a competition. In this respect, Deauville was initially slow to catch on, only getting around to adding an award for its 20th edition, back in 1995.

That first Grand Prix went to Tom DiCillo’s “Living in Oblivion”; last year’s went to Karen Moncrieff’s “The Dead Girl.” In between, the fest has managed to garland some heavy-hitters: “Being John Malkovich,” “Crash” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” among others. This year, though, the focus seems fixed squarely on very small-scale independents.

While critical heavyweights like Clint Eastwood’s “The Changeling” luxuriate in out-of-competition berths, the competish is divided between some Sundance titles (Lance Hammer’s “Ballast,” Tom McCarthy’s “The Visitor,” David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels”) and even older fare (like Alan Ball’s “Towelhead,” which preemed at 2007’s Toronto fest as “Nothing Is Private”).

Other comp titles include “Afterschool” from Antonio Campos; “All God’s Children Can Dance” by Robert Logevall; Neil Abramson’s “American Son”; “Momma’s Man,” from Azazel Jacobs; Noam Murro’s “Smart People”; and “Sunshine Cleaning” from Christine Jeffs.

The jury, chaired by Gallic thesp Carole Bouquet, might just have its work cut out for it.

Deauville features tributes to Spike Lee (who will accompany his film “Miracle at St. Anna” in its French debut), Parker Posey and Ed Harris. A retrospective of the work of “Wagon Train” director Mitchell Leisen, who died in 1972, rounds out the program. Global hit “Mamma Mia!” opens the fest while Helen Hunt’s “Then She Found Me” closes it.

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