Penn, who has been garnering awards and nominations for writing, directing and producing the 2007 film "Into the Wild," won the best male performance prize at the Cannes film festival in 1997 for his performance in "She's So Lovely," which was directed by Nick Cassavetes and co-starred his soon-to-be ex-wife Robin Wright Penn.
The 2008 edition of the Cannes film festival is slated for May 14-25.
"In the last few years, it seems there has been a rejuvenation of cinema building worldwide; increasingly thoughtful, provocative, moving, and imaginative films by talented filmmakers: that a new generation of filmmaking may have begun," Penn said in a statement posted on the festival's Web site. "The Cannes film festival has long been the epicenter in the discovery of those new waves of filmmakers from all over the world. I very much look forward to participating in this year's festival as president of the jury."