When I saw the results of the 2019 Cannes Jury judging process I was pleasantly surprised by what appear to be some interesting and seemingly well-supported decisions. Here are the main awards for 2019:
Palme d’Or: Parasite, dir. Bong Joon-ho (South Korea)
Grand Prix: Atlantique, dir. Mati Diop (France-Senegal-Belgium)
Jury Prize (tie): Les Misérables (dir. Ladj Ly, France) and Bacurau (dirs. Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Brazil-France)
Best Actress: Emily Beecham, Little Joe, (dir. Jessica Hausner, Austria-UK-Germany)
Best Actor: Antonio Banderas, Dolor y gloria (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
Best Director: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, (Le jeune Ahmed, Belgium-France)
Best Screenplay: Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, Céline Sciamma (dir. Céline Sciamma, France)
Special Mention of the Jury: It Must Be Heaven, dir. Elia Suleiman (France-Qatar-Germany-Canada-Turkey-Palestine)
I haven’t seen any of the films, but I am familiar with most of the directors and the two actors in the list and on that basis I’m very happy with the results.
But the main question is how do these results affect the way Cannes as a festival is judged? The second question is what happens to these titles now? How many of them will be shown in the UK and how long will they take to get here?
I’ll deal with the most dispiriting news first – which both feeds a current debate and dismays me as a filmgoer. The film I perhaps most want to see is Atlantique and I’ve already seen a tweet suggesting that it has been sold to Netflix. What this actually means is not clear as the film appears to have a French theatrical distributor. France seems to handle this much better than the UK. I want to see the film in a cinema and I want a DVD I can use for teaching. Will this be a similar case to Roma? Possibly not but Mati Diop is the first black woman to win a prize at Cannes as a director and that ought to generate some interest even in the UK market. I remember Ms Diop as an actor in the wonderful Claire Denis film 35 rhums (France 2008) and as the director of a short 16 mins version of Atlantique released in 2009.
The prize for Atlantique is also noteworthy in the recognition of female filmmakers at Cannes. Alongside Mati Diop, Céline Sciamma has won the script prize for a film she has also directed and Jessica Hausner has directed the film which produced the best female performance by Emily Beecham. I’ve already seen comments that though these results are welcome, why have no women won best director or the Palme d’Or since Jane Campion in 1993? Several commentators have also noted that women have won the script prize for the last three years (Lynne Ramsay in 2017, Alice Rohrwacher in 2018), each time for a film they have also directed. Is there a reluctance to award them best picture or best director? I understand all these points and I’d like to see a much more even share of prizes as recognition of women’s creativity and skill in the film industry. But it’s going to take time to improve the the number of Cannes screenings of films by women. The whole enterprise could backfire if the overall quality of entries was affected by attempts to ‘fast track’ particular writers/directors. The juries have become much more diverse in terms of gender, sexual orientation and nationality but perhaps more does need to be done in the selection process for film titles to go into competition? Overall I think Cannes is making progress.
What else is notable in these results? East Asia wins the Palme d’Or again, this time an overdue win for South Korea and Bong Joon-ho. I have been a big fan, but not able to see his last two films because they haven’t had a proper release in UK cinemas. Parasite has been acquired by Curzon, which means it won’t play in Bradford but I should be able to see it in Manchester. I’m also a fan of Céline Sciamma, the Dardenne Brothers and Elia Suleiman (bravo for a Palestinian filmmaker getting recognition). Curzon has also picked up the Céline Sciamma film – and the intriguing Romanian title The Whistlers set on the tiny island of La Gomera in the Canaries. I haven’t yet seen who has acquired Le jeune Ahmed or It Must Be Heaven for the UK.
Jessica Hausner is the Austrian director who directed Lourdes (2009) which won prizes at Venice. That film was in French and she has also made features in German and now English. Little Joe, a UK co-production, stars Emily Beecham, winner of the best female performance prize. She is mainly known as a TV actor in the UK but I remember her performance in Daphne (UK 2017). I didn’t like that film for several reasons but I was impressed by Emily Beecham’s lead performance so I’m looking forward to Little Joe. The film attracted some BBC funding which means that we should see it in UK cinemas. As an SF/horror film about biotechnology it should find a UK audience.
The other two prizes offer contrasting stories. Antonio Banderas playing an ageing gay film director for Pedro Almodóvar is guaranteed a strong UK reception surely – even during the Brexit madness? The film is distributed in different territories by Sony, Warner Bros. and Pathé but I’m not sure who will bring it to the UK. The final prize (the Jury Prize) is split between the Brazilian film by two directors who collaborated on Aquarius in 2016 (and Neighbouring Sounds in 2012) and the updated version of Les Misérables by Ladj Ly. This last title is a début fiction feature by a black documentarist from the Paris banlieues. It certainly sounds like something I would want to see and which again should find a UK market. Selecting the film also highlights one of the other questions that always hangs around Cannes.
Cannes is a French festival but is it too focused on French films? Looking down the list of prize-winners it seems clear that if you are a filmmaker from anywhere else in the world, you are best advised to at least consider a French co-production deal as a way of getting a Cannes competition screening. Only US or UK films (because of their financial muscle/market importance) or films from securely established auteurs like Almodóvar stand much chance otherwise. This year the Americans have really suffered with Terence Malick winning only a minor prize and Quentin Tarantino ignored altogether. I’m not going to try to analyse why that is. It’s good of course that French support for East Asian directors has brought further recognition for Bong Joon-ho following on from Kore-eda Hirokazu last year. Asian titles always seem to get more support in Paris than in London and it’s no surprise that, following Asghar Farhadi, Kore-eda has now made a film in France, The Truth (2019) with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. I think this might appear at Venice? But Cannes still struggles to showcase Indian film industries – something arguably more a problem caused by institutional failures in those industries rather than the festival itself?
We’ll try to see as many of these 2019 Cannes titles as possible in a cinema. I hope the London, Leeds and Glasgow festival programmers will bring them to us even if they don’t all get UK releases.
Cannes started today and the media frenzy that surrounds the festival seems to get greater each year. The Guardian‘s film editor Catherine Shoard has written a piece which perhaps reflect a mood amongst mainstream newspapers – focusing on celebrities, glamour and whether Cannes can predict Oscar contenders or offer sneak previews of Hollywood product to come. Fortunately, the festival organisers have done a pretty good job in attracting a more diverse range of films and filmmakers this year. There are perhaps too many American independents and French productions but that’s seemingly inevitable. At least one of those French productions is directed by Asghar Farhadi and another by Abdellatif Kechiche; the single female director in competition, Valeria Bruni Tedschi comes under a French banner and Arnaud des Pallières is unknown to me. François Ozon and Arnaud Desplechin count as ‘usual suspects’. It’s good to see a Dutch and a Mexican director both returning after previous Cannes outings and there is a semblance of recognition for the importance of East Asian cinemas with the presence of Kore-eda Hirokazu, Miike Takashi and Jia Zhangke. Nicholas Winding Refn and Roman Polanski should stir things up and the Americans are all reliable performers. Paolo Sorrentino is almost a Cannes fixture and it’s good to see the return of Mahamat Saleh Haroun as the sole African representative – I hope he wins another prize.
Here is the full competition line-up:
- BEHIND THE CANDELABRA directed by Steven SODERBERGH
- BORGMAN directed by Alex VAN WARMERDAM
- GRIGRIS directed by Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN
- HELI directed by Amat ESCALANTE
- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS directed by Ethan COEN, Joel COEN
- JEUNE & JOLIE (YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL) directed by François OZON
- JIMMY P. (PSYCHOTHERAPY OF A PLAINS INDIAN) directed by Arnaud DESPLECHIN
- LA GRANDE BELLEZZA (THE GREAT BEAUTY) directed by Paolo SORRENTINO
- LA VÉNUS À LA FOURRURE (VENUS IN FUR) directed by Roman POLANSKI
- LA VIE D’ADÈLE – CHAPITRE 1 & 2 (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR) directed byAbdellatif KECHICHE
- LE PASSÉ (THE PAST) directed by Asghar FARHADI
- MICHAEL KOHLHAAS directed by Arnaud DES PALLIÈRES
- NEBRASKA directed by Alexander PAYNE
- ONLY GOD FORGIVES directed by Nicolas WINDING REFN
- ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE directed by Jim JARMUSCH
- SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU (Like Father, Like Son) directed by KORE-EDA Hirokazu
- THE IMMIGRANT directed by James GRAY
- TIAN ZHU DING (A TOUCH OF SIN) directed by JIA Zhangke
- UN CHÂTEAU EN ITALIE (A CASTLE IN ITALY) directed by Valeria BRUNI TEDESCHI
- WARA NO TATE (Shield of Straw) directed by Takashi MIIKE
Now I’ve run through the list it looks encouraging. Strangely though, some of the leading women in film seem to have been placed in ‘Un certain regard‘ where you’ll find Claire Denis and Sofia Coppola amongst eight female directors. Again it looks an interesting selection. Still no South Asian directors in the two main strands however, but the rise and rise of Anurag Kashyap continues and he features in the Special Screenings selection with the portmanteau film Bombay Talkies (which includes other segments by Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibarkar Banerjee) a film presented as a ‘birthday card’ to ‘100 Years of Indian Cinema’. Kashyap’s own film Ugly shows in the Directors’ Fortnight and he also turns up as one of the producers of Monsoon Shootout (UK-Netherlands-India) by Amit Kumar and showing ‘Out of Competition – sounds like an interesting little film, a police drama set in Mumbai. Kumar is an FTII graduate and has worked with Asif Kapadia who is also an exec producer. I hope this gets a UK release.
It’s that time of year again. The line-up for the Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival has been announced and it is an intriguing mixture of established and new talent that looks set to make 2011 a vintage year. Apart from the usual complaints – little from Latin America or Africa and possibly too much from certain European countries – what has caught the eye is the inclusion of six women directors in the two main sections.
The four films by women in the Palme d’Or section are:
Hanezu No Tsuki, dir. Naomi Kawase (Japan)
Sleeping Beauty, dir. Julia Leigh (Australia)
Poliss, dir. Maiwenn (France)
We Need To Talk About Kevin, dir. Lynne Ramsay (UK)
In the ‘Un certain regard’ section are:
Where Do We Go Now? (Et Maintenant On Va Ou?), dir. Nadine Labaki (Lebanon/France)
Hard Labor (Trabalhar Cansa), dirs. Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra (Brazil)
Of these, the films by Julia Leigh, Maiwenn and Juliana Rojas are all first-time feature films and we look forward to hearing about them when the festival gets underway. Naomi Kawase is an established Japanese festival favourite who hasn’t really succeeded in international distribution yet. She has been previously nominated twice for the Palme d’Or and won the Festival Gran Prix in 2007 for Mogari no mori. Perhaps this will be her year?
We are most excited by the new films from Nadine Labaki and Lynne Ramsay. Labaki’s previous film Caramel (Lebanon/France 2007) has been one of our most popular postings and we are still hoping for a UK release of Stray Bullet (Lebanon 2010) in which she starred.
Most of all, however, it is welcome back to Lynne Ramsay. Ramsay first got noticed (and a prize) at Cannes in 1996 with her first film school short Small Deaths. When she won again with another short Gasman in 1998, she was able to turn that success into two lauded features, Ratcatcher (1999) and Morvern Callar (2002). At that point she looked like becoming the UK’s premier ‘art director’ making films that are great to look at, intelligent, different, moving and with something to say. But then she discovered just how crass and cruel the film business can be. She worked for four years on preparation for The Lovely Bones, only for the project to be taken away from her and handed to Peter Jackson. But Ramsay is committed and determined and she has stuck to her principles. We Need to Talk About Kevin is also an adaptation of a successful book but this time Ramsay has been working with Tilda Swinton two tough Scottish women together, quite a combination. Fingers crossed it all looks as good as we all hope it does on screen. The story of the film’s production is part of this useful piece by Andrew Pulver on the DGA website.