Greater public interest has inspired organisers to nearly double the number of movies scheduled for this year's French film festival. The annual French Cinepanorama (December 6-20) will showcase 38 films this year, compared with last year's 20, due to the extremely strong response to French cinema from the Hong Kong public, said organisers. 'This year has been a good one for French cinema throughout the world,' said Francois Gaudeau, director of Alliance Francaise, a festival organiser. 'Hong Kong distributors have followed this successful movement, as some of the finest French films have been released, such as A Very Long Engagement, 36 and most recently Mean Spirit. This emphasises the growing interest in French cinema.' Films from masters of the young and old generation will be shown at the festival. Internationally renowned French director Francois Ozon's latest film, Time To Leave, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, will be the curtain raiser for the Hong Kong event. Ozon's previous features such as 8 Femmes and Swimming Pool earned him a solid fan base in Hong Kong. Merry Christmas by Christian Carion will close the event. The film has been selected as the French representative to compete in the foreign language film category at next year's Oscars. Other new films such as Anthony Zimmer, starring Sophie Marceau, and unreleased features such as Strayed, featuring Emmanuelle Beart, are also on the festival programme. Six classics, including Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus by Jean Cocteau, will form this year's retrospective section.