Canadian filmmaker Don McKellar says he's both delighted and frightened that "Blindness," a movie he wrote starring Hollywood A-listers Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore, is opening the Cannes Film Festival.

Cannes officials named the bleak "Blindness" their May 14 opening-night movie on Tuesday following days of intense speculation among movie fans. The film is produced by Niv Fichman of Toronto-based Rhombus Media and directed by esteemed Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles.

McKellar's screenplay is based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Portuguese author Jose Saramago about a blindness epidemic plaguing a city.

"It's both terrifying and thrilling," McKellar, a Toronto native, said Tuesday about the Cannes honour.

"It's not going to be fun; it's going to be really nerve-racking because it's opening night and all the film critics of the world are going to be there, so it's going to be kind of scary. But still, that's the game, and I'm delighted to be there."

"Blindness," a co-production between Canada, Brazil and Japan, will compete against Toronto's Atom Egoyan and his film "Adoration," among other movies at Cannes, for the prestigious Palme d'or.

"We are thrilled to be there with Atom - he's a friend and his film is really good - so I see it as a two-pronged Canadian attack rather than a competition," McKellar said.

McKellar had been a fan of Saramago's 1995 novel since reading it more than a decade ago, and tried for years, along with Fichman, to convince Saramago that the book would make a great film.

"We talked for quite a while," he said. "He liked what we were saying about how we saw the movie being made and how we wanted to make it and how it would be financed, but he'd never given away the rights to any of his books before, and he was very skeptical about the movie business, as any sensible person would be."

The book is set in an unnamed city and Saramago wanted to ensure that remained the case in the film, McKellar said, since Portuguese critics felt the apocalyptic tale was a political allegory.

"He didn't want it to be politicized and he didn't want it to be Americanized, and we were totally into that," McKellar said.

Much of "Blindness" was shot in the Toronto area, including Guelph, Ont., west of the city. McKellar also appears in the film, as do other Canadian actors including Martha Burns, Maury Chaykin and Sandra Oh of "Grey's Anatomy" fame.

It's not Meirelles's first trip to Cannes. His gritty drama "City of God" was at the festival in 2002. He also directed "The Constant Gardener" and "City of Men."

Miramax paid $5 million for U.S. rights to "Blindness" last year while it was still being shot.

Also on Tuesday, Cannes officials announced that Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened," starring Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro, will close the 61st annual festival on May 25.

Latest From ...