By Sarah Mills
CANNES, France (Reuters) - The British director of the new film "American Honey" said she had discovered a "different America" in her research for the gritty drama, and was shocked by the poverty she had witnessed.
Andrea Arnold's movie, competing for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, follows a group of teenagers traveling across the United States trying to make money selling magazine subscriptions.
As the 'mag crew' go door-to-door trying to convince anyone they come across to sign-up and give them money, "American Honey" shows the contrast between the lives of the youngsters and of the often wealthy people they meet on the doorsteps.
Acclaimed filmmaker Arnold, known for her unflinching depictions of life in Britain with films such as "Fish Tank" and "Red Road" spent time traveling across the United States to prepare for her latest project.
"I got to see an awful lot when as I was traveling and I got quite upset about some of the towns I went to, some of the poverty I saw," she told a news conference on Sunday before the screening of her film in Cannes.
"It seemed really different to me than in the U.K. because when people don't have money they can't get healthcare and they can't do things like go to the dentist and stuff like that and those kind of things really shocked me."
Amongst the mostly unknown cast is American Shia LaBeouf, the "Indiana Jones" and "Transformers" star who said he has first hand experience of growing up in a poor town.
"This is not new information to me, so it's not like I discovered that - in Bakersfield where my father lived for a stint the only thing there is a prison you know so everybody works at the prison, yeah that's not new information I am part of that under class," he said.
"American Honey" is one of the 21 films in the running for the top prize in Cannes.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ros Russell)