Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 17 News List

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Penelope Cruz was just one of the A-list Hispanics to grace the Cannes Film Festival last week.

PHOTO: AP

The 2008 Cannes film festival will go down in film history as the year with the Latin touch as Spanish-language movies, Latin themes and A-list celebs make waves at cinema's largest showcase.

Eagerly-awaited Thursday by the 4,000-odd film critics attending the fest is star director Steven Soderbergh's more than four-hour look at the world's best-loved revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Filmed in Spanish and starring Benicio Del Toro, the movie being presented in two two-hour parts marks a new departure for the director best known for his blockbuster gangster Ocean's movies.

It's one of 22 films nominated for Cannes' top Palme d'Or prize for best movie, a selection in which there are as many Latin American as US movies - four each - and more films than traditionally well-represented Asia.

On the celebrity front, A-listers Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem starred in Woody Allen's first-ever feature shot in Spain - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - and soccer icon Diego Maradona, in Cannes for a film on his life, gave movie-buffs repeated performances of how well he still juggles the ball.

Another emerging nation at Cannes is India, whose entertainment billionaires seemingly blessed with limitless pockets. Bollywood is flexing its movie muscle, taking on Hollywood in unexpected corners of the globe and buying up theatres worldwide.

The slew of major entertainment deals announced this week at Cannes, the world's biggest film market, underlined Indian cinema expansionism.

Reliance BIG Entertainment, for example, the entertainment branch of India's mighty Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group, unveiled plans to spend US$1 billion by the end of 2009.

ADA plans to use the cash to produce a slate of films in nine languages while ensuring the movies make it onto cinema screens outside India as well as on home video, online digital platforms, and television through the Internet (IPTV).

On the sales front, traditional romantic Indian melodrama as well as newer-wave comedies and edgy arthouse are selling well - sometimes to the most unexpected markets.

In Germany, Eros' new political thriller Sarkar Raj, featuring Bollywood star and former Miss World, Ashwarya Rai, playing alongside her celebrity actor husband Abhishek Bachchan, generated huge unexpected market interest at the recent Berlin film festival.

In the cinematic mainstream, production of a new installment of the Terminator science fiction franchises began three weeks ago, with Christian Bale starring as John Connor in his ongoing quest to save humanity from the machines. Arnold Schwarzenegger did say he would be back, but whether he can combine being the 38th governor of California and a relentless killing machine is another question.

The movie, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, is due to be released this time next year, complete with online and offline games.

In another revitalization of a well-established franchise, Harrison Ford is back as Indiana Jones. In this role, he has cheated death and withstood excruciating pain, and now he has gone the extra mile in the discomfort stakes to protect rainforests.

He has had his chest waxed.

Anyone who has ever waxed their legs or, worse still, bikini line or underarms, knows that this form of hair removal can be painful.

But while Ford winces, he doesn't make a peep when the esthetician in the short video rips a wide swathe of his chest hair out.

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