Emmanuelle Bercot
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French actress-director Emmanuelle Bercot’s “La Tete haute,” starring Catherine Deneuve, has been selected to open the Cannes Film Festival on May 13, Variety has learned from industry sources.

The film, which is being sold by Elle Driver and distributed in France by Wild Bunch, follows the experience of a juvenile delinquent named Malony from ages 6 to 18, with Deneuve playing a judge trying to intervene. It’s Deneuve’s second collaboration with Bercot after “On My Way,” which premiered in competition at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.

It hasn’t yet been decided whether “La Tete haute” will premiere in or out of competition. The film is co-written by Bercot and Marcia Romano, and also stars Benoit Magimel and Sara Forestier.

Bercot will be the first female director to open the festival since 1987, when Cannes kicked off with Diane Kurys’ “A Man in Love.” Although she began her career as an actress (with credits including “Class Trip,” “A tout de suite” and “Carlos”), Bercot has become better known in recent years as a writer-director. She made her helming debut in 2001 with “Clement,” which premiered at Cannes in Un Certain Regard.

Bercot may be doing double duty at this year’s Cannes: She’s also starring in Maiwenn’s “Mon roi,” a French film widely expected to premiere in the official selection.

Observers close to the festival noted that, after a run of splashy, star-powered opening entries (“Midnight in Paris,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Grace of Monaco”), festival topper Thierry Fremaux had been looking specifically for a French entry to kick off the festivities, especially in a year when the main competition jury is being presided over by two American directors, Joel and Ethan Coen. The last time a solely French-produced film opened Cannes was in 2005, with Dominik Moll’s “Lemming.”

With the official selection due to be announced this Thursday, April 16, Cannes programmers waited a bit longer than usual to unveil this year’s curtain-raiser, given that “Grace of Monaco” (2014) was announced as the opening-night film in January, while “The Great Gatsby” (2013) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) were both announced in early March. Still, it’s hardly the first time this decision has gone down to the wire: The festival waited until as late as April to announce past opening-night films such as “My Blueberry Nights” (2007) and “Blindness” (2008).

The Cannes Film Festival runs May 13-24.

(Guy Lodge contributed to this report.)

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