Almodóvar and Malick Will Compete at Cannes. Tarantino? He’s a Maybe.

The Cannes Film Festival on Thursday unveiled a set of movies in contention for this year’s Palme d’Or. The American director Terrence Malick — who won in 2011 for “The Tree of Life” — is back with “A Hidden Life,” set during World War II. Films by Pedro Almodóvar of Spain and Ken Loach of Britain are also in the running.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” could join the lineup if it’s completed in time, said the festival’s artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, at a news conference in Paris. Mr. Frémaux said he had seen most of it, and it was “magnificent.”

The festival opens on May 14 with Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie “The Dead Don’t Die” and ends on May 25. There are 19 movies in the race so far, though Mr. Frémaux said there were likely to be additions.

“You will see women directors, first films, Americans, zombies, genetic manipulations,” Mr. Frémaux said, adding that the titles in the competition would also feature “painters, singers, cops, parasites, violent mafiosos.”

Screening out of the official competition is “Rocketman,” a biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher, whose world premiere will bring the superstar singer-songwriter Elton John to the Cannes red carpet.

Another out-of-competition title is the documentary “Diego Maradona,” focusing on the Argentine soccer player and directed by Asif Kapadia, whose Amy Winehouse documentary drew critical acclaim.

This year’s lineup is a mix of Cannes veterans — Marco Bellocchio of Italy, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne of Belgium — and first-timers to the competition, such as all four of the female directors selected: Jessica Hausner, Céline Sciamma, Mati Diop and Justine Triet.

Thomas Sotinel, a film critic for the French newspaper Le Monde, said in a telphone interview that he saw their inclusion as a positive step in Cannes’ efforts to achieve a gender balance.

“Four out of 19 is a little timid, statistically speaking, but it’s one more than last year, so there’s progress,” he said, noting that the four were all directors “at the start of their careers.”

At the moment, there were “very few established female directors” in world cinema, besides Jane Campion or Claire Denis, he added. The only way to bring in more women was to bring in up-and-comers. “That’s how we’ll see renewal,” Mr. Sotinel said.

Last year, the Cannes Film Festival missed out on Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” because it was a Netflix production. “Roma,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, went on to win the top Venice prize as well as three Academy Awards.

The reason for the exclusion was that Cannes requires all competition titles to be released in French movie theaters. The rule is part of a system of subsidies and regulations with which France protects its homegrown film industry and preserves its nationwide network of cinemas.

Mr. Frémaux said the rule remained in place, though he and the festival management had had regular conversations with Netflix, including one earlier this week. He said Netflix had no movies ready that would have been potentially eligible for the competition.

The president of the festival, Pierre Lescure, told reporters at the Paris news conference that the French film industry would soon show more flexibility and that the mandated delay between a movie’s theatrical release and its release by a streaming service, currently up to three years, could be changed. Depending on a movie’s style and budget, that window could be narrowed, he explained.

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