As widely expected and to no one’s surprise, it has been confirmed that Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life will screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, most likely in an out-of-competition slot in the official selection. The bigger mystery now is whether distributor Fox Searchlight will have screenings stateside before shipping the period drama overseas, given that the film’s release date in France (May 18) comes during the festival (May 11-22). Will Searchlight want to give Cannes a true world premiere, or will it want to provide the media with the more standard lead times that screenings in the U.S. would provide? The latter was the path taken by last year’s Cannes opener, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.

There has been speculation for a year now about just when and where Tree Of Life, starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, might get its premiere. In reality, the French Riviera always has seemed the place for it: The project wasn’t ready in time for a Cannes bow last year (though Cannes general delegate Thierry Fremaux saw a cut of the film and agreed to include it in last year’s edition, even if the notoriously elusive Malick didn’t attend the fest), and since then the usual spots at Telluride, Toronto, Sundance and even South By Southwest (Malick is Texas-based) have come and gone. Tribeca obvioulsy wasn’t a big enough springboard, so what really was left for a studio seeking a global platform for an auteur film?

Cannes will unveil its official selection next month. Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris already has been slated as the opening-night film.