Howard, who was joined on the red carpet by the film's stars Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany and French beauty Audrey Tautou, brushed aside suggestions the work is a slight on the Christian faith, fuming, "This is supposed to be entertainment. It is not theology. It should not be misunderstood as such.
"My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you're going to be upset."
Hanks, who plays Harvard academic Robert Langdon in the movie, added, "This is not a documentary. This is emotional fiction.
"People who think things are true might be more dangerous than those who ponder the possibilities."
Howard also dismissed the savaging the film has received from reviewers after early press screenings, saying, "I stopped prognosticating a long time ago."
Poitier said, "As I stand here in this atmosphere where the genius of so many of the world's great cinema auteurs still lingers, I am honored in the extreme and privileged beyond words to welcome the present generation... who will surely come with a genius of their own."
The Da Vinci Code is not battling it out for any awards at Cannes.
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