When the Cannes Film Festival announced its 2008 competition slate, there was one very curious omission: Fernando Meirelles’s Blindness. For the film to turn up MIA after it had been listed as a sure thing by both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter seemed suspicious. Was Meirelles’s follow-up to The Constant Gardener a dud? Did its distributors, Miramax (U.S.) and Focus (International), make a commitment to the Toronto Film Festival?

Well, wonder no longer: Blindness is this year’s opening night selection at Cannes.

But, please, feel free to keep worrying about the film’s quality. For a festival dedicated to showcasing the best of cinema, its organizers sure have a troubling inability to kick off their shindig with movies that aren’t utterly jeer-worthy. The only opening night selection of the last ten years to not elicit a hail of invective was Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education (2004); the rest have been either flawed (like last year’s My Blueberry Nights) or outright disasters (e.g. The Da Vinci Code, Fanfan La Tulipe and Vatel). Since Meirelles’s last two films (The Constant Gardener and City of God) made my year-end top ten lists, here’s hoping for some serious trend bucking.

Somewhat more encouraging: Laurent Cantet’s Entre les murs has also been added to the competition. While I still don’t know what I think of the French director’s last effort, Heading South, his Time Out was one of 2001’s best films (and 1999’s Human Resources was pretty damn good, too). More Cantet is always welcome.

The festival gets started on May 14. Stay tuned to CHUD for incisive second-hand coverage.