This year the Cannes film festival will be paying homage to 100 years of Indian cinema. A large delegation of actors and directors from India is expected to attend the annual film jamboree and it is expected that several early films by Dadasaheb Phalke will be projected. The celebration to mark 100 years of Indian cinema will take place on May 19.

It is rumoured that actor Nandita Das will be a jury member, although she will not serve on the jury of the main competition section.

As usual the festival organisers are being cagey and secretive about the exact programming, to be announced with great fanfare at a specially convened press conference in Paris on 18 April.

Few details of what film fans can expect this year at Cannes have filtered out except that Steven Spielberg will preside over the Jury and that Audrey Tautou, the star of Amelie Poulain will host the opening and closing ceremonies. The festival which runs from May 15 through 26 will kick off with Baz Luhrmann’s remake of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It will close with Zulu , a crime thriller by French director Jerome Salle’s first English-language venture. Entirely shot on location in South Africa the film tells the story of two policemen, played by Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, investigating a murder.

France remains a cine-goer’s paradise with festivals and retrospectives galore. Indian cinema appears to be the flavour of the day with no less than 13 different festivals of Indian films programmed in big and small French towns in 2013 alone. The first one this year to be held in Paris was the South Asian Film Festival.

“We aim to get away from the clichés that surround the idea of Indian cinema in France. We therefore chose films that had new modern themes that tread a completely new path. Most French people equate Indian cinema with typical Bollywood fare — the song and dance boy-meets girl routine, and we wished to show that Indian cinema could treat themes as diverse as AIDS, prostitution, or the Indo-Pak conflict,” Jean-Francois Thermoz, Director South Asian Film Festival, told The Hindu in an interview. The films from India included Delhi Belly , B.A.Pass , My brother Nikhil , Ezham Arivu, Alms for a blind horse , Pizza and Vazhakku Enn 18/9 .

“The essential idea was to get away from the sameness of Bollywood and show films from across the country. Next year we hope to have more films from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries,” Mr. Thermoz said.

The 35th International Short Film Festival in the south-central city of Clermont-Ferrand held a retrospective of significant Indian short films in February last with five major Indian film schools represented. In the city of Vesoul, at Europe’s oldest and largest festival devoted to Asian cinema, had director Gautam Ghosh as a jury member in February last where the list of films included offerings from Odisha, Manipur, Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra and Bollywood. Anand Patwardhan, a renowned documentary filmmaker was honoured with a retrospective by the Centre Pompidou in Paris in March in a festival entitled Reality Cinema.

The next big event will be Cannes. But there is more to come. La Rochelle, the second largest festival after Cannes to be held in July will also celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema with a screening of several Phalke originals and the biopic Harishchandrachi Factory . The French National Centre of Dance will also focus on dance in Indian cinema in June, while Shayam Benegal is to be the guest of honour at the 12th edition of the Indian Summer Festival at the Guimet Museum of Asian Arts in Paris next October.

The Indian embassy, Air India, the ICCR, the Films Division and other cultural bodies in India make a significant contribution to make these festivals possible. “We help in the sub-titling, occasionally even paying for it, we organise tickets with Air India to bring directors and actors across, for the smaller festivals with limited resources we even offer hospitality,” Apoorva Srivastava, the Cultural Counsellor at the embassy in Paris told The Hindu .

“There are several major events coming up. The Three Continents festival in Nantes will also be honouring India and there will be films on historical subjects from India at the Pessac festival of historical films in November. India is really making an impact and the French have realised that Indian cinema can no longer be reduced to Bollywood and Ray. Bollywood has begun to make non-formula films and regional cinema from India offers a very wide palette of treatment and subject,” she said.

  • ‘We want to get away from the sameness of Bollywood and show films from across the country’

  • Indian cinema appears to be the flavour of the day

  • It will kick off on May 15 with Baz Luhrmann’s remake of The Great Gatsby