Lineup includes Techine, Ostlund, Lanners and Johnson

The Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight has unveiled a slate heavy on Euro fare and light on U.S. pics, with only rookie helmer Liza Johnson’s “Return” selected.

The lineup, assembled by Frederic Boyer, now in his second year as the Fortnight topper, was presented in Paris today. His selection committee saw a total of 2288 films (including shorts), and his final selection of 25 features includes 23 world premieres.

Fifteen of the 21 pics of the main selection come from Europe, another four are presented as special screenings.

The most recognizable name on the slate is local helmer Andre Techine (“Strayed,” “The Witnesses”). The Gallic vet director will present his “Impardonnables,” an adaptation of a Philippe Djian novel that stars Andre Dussolier and Carole Bouquet.

But the helmer, who’s made more than 20 films since the late 1960s, is the exception that seems to confirm the rule, with eight first-timers duking it out with directors who, for the most part, have made not more than a handful of films.

One of the debuting helmers is artist-turned-director Johnson. In her “Return,” Linda Cardellini plays a soldier who returns home after a tour of duty and has trouble adjusting. Pic co-stars Michael Shannon and Tim Blake Nelson.

“We try to have at least three American films in the selection but this year we only have one, partly because European cinema was particularly powerful,” Boyer told Daily Variety. The topper also indicated that some of the U.S. films he liked ended up in other sections of the fest, and that the Fortnight preferred to present world preems, thus limiting his choices.

“Return,” described by Boyer as “Taxi Driver” with a feminine twist, seems emblematic of this year’s femme-focused approach across Cannes’ various sections. “These women filmmakers have a singular vision, world perspective, sensibility and a meticulous attention to the script and dialogues,” commented Boyer.

Other Fortnight pics helmed by women in the main selection include “Code Blue,” the soph feature of Dutch-Polish helmer Urszula Antoniak (“Nothing Personal”), about a middle-aged nurse; Catholic coming-of-ager “Corpo celeste,” the first pic from Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher (thesp Alba Rohrwacher’s sister); and “The Other Side of Sleep” from tyro helmer Rebecca Daly, about a sleepwalker confronted with a murder, set in the filmmaker’s native Ireland.

Gallic first-timer Valerie Mrejen will preem her “Iris in Bloom,” about a 16-year-old girl’s relationship with a photographer 24 years her senior, while Moroccan docu helmer Leila Kilani will present her fiction debut, “Sur la planche,” a film noir about four girls on the run.

First films from male directors include “Breathing” from Austrian Karl Markovics, better known as the lead actor from “The Counterfeiters,” and Runar Runarsson’s Danish-Icelandic co-production “Volcano.”

Both will compete for the fest’s Camera d’Or for best first film, as will Gallic helmer Roland Edzard’s “End of Silence,” one of the section’s six French titles.

“2010 was a modest year for French cinema but this year is exceptional in terms of creativity and range, with a greater number of completed films to choose from,” commented Boyer.

New films from fest faves with at least one feature to their name make up the bulk of the remaining titles, allowing Boyer to spotlight young talent but at the same time offer some recognizable names for cinephiles.

These include “Play,” the third film from Swede Ruben Ostlund (“Involuntary”); “The Island,” the sophomore pic of Bulgaria’s Kamen Kalev; and Fornight closing film “Les Geants,” the third pic as a director of Francophone Belgian thesp Bouli Lanners.

Films from further afield are few. They include the Bengali-language production “Mushrooms,” the third film from Sri Lankan helmer Vimukthi Jayasundara; “O abismo prateado,” from Brazilian Karim Ainouz (“Suely in the Sky”); Auraeus Solito’s “Palawan Fate,” from the Philippines and “Porfirio” from Colombian helmer Alejandro Landes (docu “Cocalero”).

Three documentaries will be presented as special screenings, including Natalia Almada’s “El Velador,” a co-production involving the U.S., Mexico and France. Boyer pointed out he placed a larger emphasis on docs and music-themed films this year.

Sole fiction feature getting the special-screening treatment is “Guilty of Romance,” the closing part in a trilogy by Japanese helmer Sion Sono (“Love Exposure,” “Cold Fish”).

Besides the French-language “Les Geants,” two more Belgian pics are part of the lineup: Flemish helmer Gust Van den Berghe, who last year preemed his debut pic “Little Baby Jesus of Flandr” at the Fortnight, will present his Togo-set sophomore feature “Blue Bird”; while scribe-helmer-thesping trio Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy (“L’Iceberg,” “Rumba”) will present their third pic, “La Fee.”

The latter, shot in the French town of Le Havre, will be the section’s opening film, with “Les Geants,” described as a Belgian “Stand by Me,” announced as the closer.

The sidebar runs May 12-22.

(Elsa Keslassy in Paris contributed to this report.)

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

“Apres le sud,” France, Jean-Jacques Jauffret

“Blue Bird,” Belgium , Gust Van den Berghe

“Breathing,” Austria , Karl Markovics

“Code Blue,” Netherlands-Denmark, Urszula Antoniak

“Corpo celeste,” Italy-Switzerland-France, Alice Rohrwacher

“End of Silence,” France-Austria, Roland Edzard

“La Fee,” Belgium-France, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy (opening film)

“Les Geants,” Belgium-France-Luxembourg, Bouli Lanners (closing film)

“Impardonnables,” France, Andre Techine

“The Island,” Bulgaria-Sweden, Kamen Kalev

“Iris in Bloom,” France, Valerie Mrejen

“Joan Captive,” France, Philippe Ramos

“Mushrooms,” India-France, Vimukthi Jayasundara

“O abismo prateado,” Brazil , Karim Ainouz

“The Other Side of Sleep,” Ireland-Hungary-Netherlands, Rebecca Daly

“Palawan Fate,” Philippines , Auraeus Solito

“Play,” Sweden-France-Denmark, Ruben Ostlund

“Porfirio,” Colombia-Spain-Uruguay-Argentina-France, Alejandro Landes

“Return,” U.S. , Liza Johnson

“Sur la planche,” Morocco-France-Germany, Leila Kilani

“Volcano,” Denmark-Island, Runar Runarsson

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

“At Night, They Dance,” Canada , Stephane Thibault, Isabelle Lavigne

“Des Jeunes gens modernes,” France-Belgium, Jerome de Missolz

“El Velador,” Mexico-U.S.-France, Natalia Almada

“Guilty of Romance,” Japan, Sion Sono

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