As the 68th Berlin Film Festival enters the home stretch, the global film industry’s professionals are now starting to turn their attention towards an event that can be considered the heavyweight champion of the international seventh art: the 71st Cannes Film Festival (8-19 May). As always, theories have started swirling concerning the selection that will be unveiled in April by General Delegate Thierry Frémaux, but we can already say that on paper, the 2018 edition looks to be utterly breathtaking, making the hunt for this year’s Palme d'Or (which will be handed out by a jury chaired by Australian actress Cate Blanchett) all the more exciting.

Standing out among the most eagerly awaited titles are The Wild Pear Tree by Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Loro by Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, Peterloo by British director Mike Leigh, Everybody Knows by Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan by Canada’s Xavier Dolan, Ash Is Purest White by China’s Jia Zhangke, Sunset by Hungary’s László Nemes, The Favourite by Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos, Donbass by Ukraine’s Sergei Loznitsa (principal photography for which has now wrapped), Where Life Is Born by Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas, The Sisters Brothers by France’s Jacques Audiard, Non Fiction by his fellow countryman Olivier Assayas, Burning by South Korea’s Lee Chang Dong, Vision by Japan’s Naomi Kawase and Shoplifters by her compatriot Hirokazu Kore-eda.

The top-drawer Italian contenders are particularly notable this year on account of the sheer number of them, as they also include Lazzaro Felice by Alice Rohrwacher (which is still shooting over the rest of the winter), Dogman by Matteo Garrone and Suspiria by Luca Guadagnino. We also hope to see Roma by Mexico’s Alfonso Cuarón, Widows by British director Steve McQueen (even though the previously announced November release date leaves little room for hope), Cold War by Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski, The Image Book by Switzerland’s Jean-Luc Godard and Radegund by US filmmaker Terrence Malick at Cannes.

The outsiders include La Quietud by Argentina’s Pablo Trapero, Synonyms by Israel’s Nadav Lapid, The Little Stranger by Ireland’s Lenny Abrahamson, Roads (formerly Caravan) by Germany’s Sebastian Schipper, Birds of Passage by Colombian duo Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego, Evil Games by Austria’s Ulrich Seidl, and potentially Sisters by Turkey’s Emin Alper (the shoot for which wrapped on 1 February).

For various reasons unrelated to the festival itself, we might be forgiven for wondering whether the Cannes team will feel like delving into the realms of possible controversy with The House That Jack Built by Denmark’s Lars von Trier and the next part of Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno by Abdellatif Kechiche, two filmmakers whose artistry is nonetheless easily up to the huge demands of the competition.