'Route Irish' joins competition

PARIS — In a rare last-minute move, the Cannes Film Festival added Ken Loach’s Iraq war drama “Route Irish” to its competition lineup on Monday evening.

Sources say Loach initially declined a Cannes bid for his film but recently changed his mind and screened the pic for topper Thierry Fremaux and members of the selection committee.

At the April 15 lineup announcement, Fremaux had hinted that a few titles could join the fest late in the game, though speculation was concentrated on helmer Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos,” now playing out of competition, and Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which was not ready in time.

“Route Irish” was written by regular Loach scriber Paul Laverty and tells the story of two ex-soldiers in love with the same woman who head to Iraq to work as private contractors.

The film was shot in the U.K. and Jordan and includes a number of action sequences employing stunts and pyrotechnics — rare terrain for the British helmer.

Pic was produced by Loach regular Rebecca O’Brien for Sixteen Films along with Gallic shingles Why Not Prods. and Wild Bunch, with the latter also handling international sales.

It’s Loach’s third competition bid in five years. He nabbed the Palme d’Or in 2006 with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” and his Eric Cantona starrer “Looking for Eric” played in competition last year.

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