It’s that time of year when anyone who is anyone in the world of cinema prepares to descend on the city of Cannes on the French Riviera to partake in its world-famous film festival.
The event is one of the most important of its kind, setting the tone when it comes to filmmaking talent. Success, controversy, or indifference, can make or break a career.
For its 70th edition, organisers have announced a particularly rich selection of films to be screened throughout the twelve-day event. Some 50 films from around 30 countries make up what is known as the “Official Selection”, including films from 12 female directors and nine first-time feature helmers, but no major Hollywood productions.
Many more movies will be screened in parallel sections held alongside the festival like Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.
The Holy Grail for any filmmaker attending Cannes is obviously the Competition’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.
Nineteen films will be vying for the award this year, with Sweden’s Ruben Östlund’s fifth feature, ‘The Square’, recently added as a last-minute entry. Other contenders are double-Palme d’Or laureate Michael Haneke (‘Happy End’, starring Isabelle Huppert), Sofia Coppola (‘The Beguiled’), Andrey Zvyagintsev (‘Loveless’), Oscar-winner Michel Hazanavicius (‘Redoutable’), festival favourites Naomi Kawase (‘Radiance’) and Fatih Akin (‘In The Fade’) as well as Yorgos Lanthimos (‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’).
Also competing for the top prize is South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, present both in Competition (‘The Day After’) and Out of Competition with ‘Claire’s Camera’ (also starring Isabelle Huppert).
This year promises to be a star-studded affair with major celebrities hitting the red carpet including Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kristen Stewart, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton (starring in South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Okja’ in the Un Certain Regard section) to name but a few. The jury itself is not short of A-listers including its president, director Pedro Almodovar, actors Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, and directors Park Chan-wook and Paolo Sorrentino.
Controversial Polish director Roman Polanski (Palme d’Or for ‘The Pianist’, 2002) will also be premiering his latest offering, ‘Based on a True Story’, in Cannes, after it was added to the Out of Competition line-up at the last minute.
Festival favourite Kidman stars in no less than four projects, including Coppola’s ‘The Beguiled’, Lanthimos’ ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’, John Cameron Mitchell’s Out-of-Competition feature ‘How to Talk to Girls at Parties’ and Season 2 of Jane Campion’s series ‘Top of the Lake’.
This year, TV series are making their first major appearance in Cannes. Alongside Campion’s series, the festival will show two episodes of David Lynch’s eagerly-awaited reboot of ‘Twin Peaks’. While both Lynch and Campion are festival regulars and Palme d’Or winners (Campion remains the only woman ever to have picked up the prize, in 1993, for ‘The Piano Player’), observers see these entries as harbingers of the future.
In another look to the future, Oscar-winner Alejandro G Inarritu will be presenting his latest project, ‘Virtually Present, Physically Invisible’ – a 6.5-minute VR installation shot by regular collaborator (and three-time Oscar-winner) Emmanuel Lubezki. The experiment, which allows users to experience a fragment of refugees’ personal journeys, is the first virtual reality project to be chosen for the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival.
In a further sign of the changing times, Netflix has finally made it to Cannes. The streaming giant will get its first ever festival screenings with ‘Okja’ and Noah Baumbach’s ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ (starring Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler) in the Official Competition. Amazon, which last year had five titles in the lineup, also has two films: Todd Haynes’ ‘Wonderstruck’ (starring Amy Hargreaves, Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore) and Lynn Ramsay’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’. All four are expected to get a theatrical release.
This year also marks a notable rise in the presence of female directors. Twelve women filmmakers will have films screened at the prestigious festival, up from nine last year, and a significant change from 2012, where organisers came under fire for the total lack of female directors in the line-up.
Other 70th anniversary events are the last film from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, ’24 Frames’, and Kristen Stewart’s first short film as director, ‘Come Swim’. The Special Screenings section includes a handful of documentaries including Vanessa Redgrave’s ‘Sea Sorrow’ and Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’.
A number of filmmakers that weren’t selected in the festival’s main competition will still be in Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar, including its opening-night film ‘Un beau soleil interieur’ by Claire Denis and Bruno Dumont’s ‘Jeanette’, a follow-up to last year’s ‘Slack Bay’. Two Sundance Film Festival darlings will also play in the Directors’ Fortnight: Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott’s action thriller ‘Bushwick’ and Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakout hit ‘Patti Cake$’, which will be the closing-night film.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 through May 28 2017.