The main news event of the Cannes festival took place yesterday evening with the projection of "Man of Iron," Andrej Wajda's new film about the strikes of Polish workers. Its showing came as a surprise, for it had been rumored that the prevailing political climate would prevent both its export and its release in its native land.

The film was enthusiastically greeted and many observers predict that it will be awarded the festival's top prize, La Palme Dor.

Inspired by the smoldering discontent in the Gdansk shipyards, the film outlines the growing opposition of official rulings and the harsh measures imposed to silence dissent. In filming a fictional scenario based on his observation, Wajda has given its realization at times the candid-camera quality of television reportage. In this it resembles his "Man of Marble," to which, in a sense, it is a sequel. Only very occasionally -- for example, in a cemetery sequence at nightfall with candles flickering before the crosses at the graves -- does it have the artistic sheen of his early "Ashes and Diamonds." Its importance is its critique on the burning topical issues. In technique it has often, and perhaps deliberately, a rush-order complexion.

At a press conference Wadja announced that the Cannes screening was the first his film has received and that he will shorten "Man of Iron" for Polish audiences.