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Cannes 2013: Steven Spielberg to head film festival jury

Steven Spielberg will head the jury at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, slated for May 15-26, organizers have announced.

In announcing Spielberg’s selection, festival President Gilles Jacob said the 66-year-old American director is a “Cannes ‘regular’,” noting that several of his 27 films, including “Sugarland Express” and “The Color Purple,” screened at the festival. “Sugarland” won the best screenplay award at the festival in 1974.

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But it was with “E.T.” -- which screened at the festival in 1982, “that ties were made of the type you never forget,” Jacob said.

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“Ever since, I’ve often asked Steven to be jury president, but he’s always been shooting a film,” Jacob said in a statement. “So when this year I was told ‘E.T., phone home,’ I understood and immediately replied: ‘At last!’ ”

Thierry Fremaux, general delegate of the festival, added that Spielberg accepted “in principle” two years ago. “He was able to make himself available this year to be the new jury president and when meeting him these last few weeks it has been obvious he’s excited about the job,” Fremaux said. “Because of his films, and the many causes he holds dear, he’s year-in year-out the equal of the very greatest Hollywood filmmakers. We are very proud to count him among us.”

Said Spielberg: “The memory of my first Cannes Film Festival, nearly 31 years ago with the debut of ‘E.T.’, is still one of the most vibrant memories of my career. For over six decades, Cannes has served as a platform for extraordinary films to be discovered and introduced to the world for the first time. It is an honor and a privilege to preside over the jury of a festival that proves, again and again, that cinema is the language of the world.”

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A number of Americans have presided over the jury in recent years, including Robert De Niro (2011), Tim Burton (2010) and Sean Penn (2008). Last year’s president was Italian director Nanni Moretti.

Jane Campion will head up the Cinefondation and short film jury.

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