Beyond the lineup

New programs at Cannes this year embrace kids, world

PARIS — The Cannes Film Festival crams in more than enough to entertain the thousands that show up on the Croisette, but this year, it will unveil even more unusual events.

Most people, given a choice, would not invite 2,000 children over for a movie and a snack. But the Cannes fest, the French Ministry of Education and Unicef are doing just that on the afternoon of May 13, when local school kids will climb the red-carpeted steps to enjoy a program designed just for them.

French animator Michel Ocelot will present a kid-centric master class on frame-by-frame animation, from storyboard to finished sequence. A 20-minute excerpt from his upcoming “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts” will have its world premiere.

Ocelot’s 1998 “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” based on African folktales about a tiny fellow who bursts from his mother’s womb raring to run, sold 1.5 million tickets, and went on to sell 750,000 homevid units and 450,000 picture books.

Animators in France, Vietnam and Latvia have been at work on the new Kirikou film since 2003. Celluloid Dreams has licensed the feature to more than 20 territories. It opens in France on Dec. 7.

After the tailor-made preview, the kids will enjoy a concert in the Lumiere theater followed by a snack on the beach.

The festival intends to find a suitable children’s film each year from now forward, as a way to cultivate future generations of festgoers.

Another new fest innovation this year is “Tous les Cinema du Monde,” a showcase of shorts, features and docus from one highlighted country per day.

Overseen by Serge Sobczynski and housed in the Intl. Village in its own 175-seat temporary theater, designed by architect Patrick Bouchain, this new initiative aims to sample the range of talent most representative of each nation.

Morocco kicks it off May 14, followed by Mexico, South Africa, Austria, Peru, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

A third Cannes sideshow is a feature project workshop dubbed the “Atelier.” It’s the fest’s attempt to aid emerging directors seeking to complete financing on otherwise ready-to-roll productions. Cinefondation topper Georges Goldenstern has singled out 18 projects, all of which may be examined on the fest’s Web site (www.festival-cannes.fr).

Cannes has taken it upon itself to schedule meetings between interested parties and the directors, all of whom will be on hand from May 13-15. Potential financiers will be able to view prior work by the aspiring helmers in a dedicated screening facility. Program includes projects from regions including Bosnia, China and Palestine.

One last innovation certain to be popular with festivalgoers is a second chance to see all of the competition titles. The day after each pic has its official red carpet presentation in the Lumiere theater, it will be shown in one of the smaller salles in the Palais. (This is in addition to the regular reshowing of the competition lineup on the fest’s final Sunday.) Accredited attendees need only show their badges — and press will not have priority.