It’s that time of year again! On Wednesday, May 17th in the seaside town of Cannes, France, the renowned international film festival will kick off. The festival was created in 1939 by the French Minister of National Education and Fine Arts, Jean Zay, along with other political figures. The only international film festival at the time was the Venice Mostra; however, the 1938 competition was said to have been influenced by Adolf Hitler, who put pressure on the judges to name a Nazi propaganda film as the winner. The point of the new festival by Zay was to introduce a “film festival for Europe in which art would no longer be influenced by political maneuvering.” Unfortunately, the first festival was put on hold and eventually cancelled upon news that Hitler had invaded Poland.
Despite its rocky beginnings, the Festival de Cannes (officially titled in 2002) continues to be one of the most celebrated and impressive international film festivals in the world. While the festival takes place in Europe and features many European films, many American actors and directors have been a part of it. Some include Natalie Portman (“A Tale of Love and Darkness”), Jeff Nichols (“Loving”), Tommy Lee Jones (“The Homesman”), Julianne Moore (“Maps to the Stars”), and Joel and Ethan Cohen (“Inside Llewyn Davis”).
This year’s festival promises an impressive crew of directors and actors, and they are all anxious to go home with the Palme d’Or (the Cannes’ highest award). The films are provocative and entertaining; however, it is apparent that a political message has made its way into this year’s lineup. Every year in May, the film industry suddenly zooms in on a small resort town in France: Cannes, home of what is arguably the world’s most famous film festival. This year, the celebrations will be especially extravagant as the Cannes Film Festival celebrates turning 70. Here are a few movies that will certainly make a splash this year.
Sofia Coppola puts a feminist twist on the 1971 Clint Eastwood film about an injured soldier trapped in a girls’ boarding school, focusing on the bonds between women at the school instead of the male narrative. The soldier, played by Colin Farrell, becomes entwined in the affections of several women (played by Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Claire Danes). It’ll be interesting to see how Coppola frames the movie around women’s friendship as opposed to the previous male viewpoint. As Coppola told Entertainment Weekly, “The main crux of the story is about the dynamics between a group of women all stuck together, and then also the power shifts between men and women.”
While not a politically-charged film, Sophia Coppola’s newest film is generating a lot of buzz at the Cannes this year. The film boasts a full cast, including Nicole Kidman (“Australia”), Colin Farrell (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Kirsten Dunst (“Marie Antoinette”), and Elle Fanning (“Maleficent”). A remake of the 1971 classic starring Clint Eastwood, this creepy thriller is sure to send some chills down the spines of the Cannes’ audience.
After David Lynch’s disastrous 1992 Cannes debut of “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” the director chose to stay silent on his classic series for two decades. Now he’s premiering two new episodes of the show at the festival. Cannes has traditionally ignored television, but now it’s reluctantly embracing not only TV shows but virtual reality showcases and even series from Netflix. “Twin Peaks” isn’t the only TV show to premiere at Cannes; Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” will screen a few episodes as well. It’s a paradigm shift for the intensely traditional film festival that has long favored artistic and indie productions.
Directed by Vanessa Redgrave, this documentary also deals with the European refugee crisis. The 80-year-old Oscar-winning actress was shocked by the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed upon the shore became one of the most iconic photographs of the decade. Redgrave drew parallels between the refugee crisis and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The title of the film derives from “The Tempest” as well: “Our sea sorrow,” recites main character Prospero to his daughter Miranda, telling her of the dramatic escape they made from Milan when Miranda was only three.
Set to show during the Special Screening section, this documentary stars Ralph Fiennes (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Emma Thompson (“Sense and Sensibility”), and depicts the current refugee crisis in the Middle East. It is the directorial debut for actress Vanessa Redgrave (“Mrs. Dalloway” and “Letters to Juliet”). The documentary highlights the importance of filmmakers finding a story they believe in.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman pair up again for this artistic thriller-horror film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”). Farrell plays a brilliant surgeon who becomes drawn into the life of a dysfunctional teenage boy; Kidman, who stars in an incredible four Cannes-selected films, plays his wife. It’ll be fascinating to see how the dynamic between Farrell and Kidman shifts in this narrative, as they also play love interests in “The Beguiled.”
Netflix quickly made itself known in the world of film, winning the Academy Award for best documentary for “The White Helmets.” Now Netflix is taking on the Cannes Festival with their newest film “Okja.” From the mind of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”) and starring Tilda Swinton (“Doctor Strange”), the film depicts a young girl who will risk everything to save her animal friend from a multi-billion-dollar corporation. The film discusses animal cruelty and the things that separate – and don’t separate – man from animal. It also stirred some controversy when Cannes insisted the film premiere at the festival, while Netflix wanted to stream the film to their online customers. The short feud highlights the question of where film festivals fit in the digital age of film.
Also in competition this year is the newest film by director Michael Haneke. Haneke made film industry buzz after his film “Amour” won the Palme d’Or in 2012 and the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2013. Set in Calais, France, the film follows a family’s drama during the European refugee crisis. This film is set in Cannes itself and tells the timely tale of a middle-class family’s method of dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s directed by Michael Haneke, who previously won the prestigious Palme D’Or (the festival’s highest prize) for both “Amour” and “White Ribbon.” Film critics are interested to see if Haneke will win the prize again, which would make him the only director to win it three times. Despite the title, rumor has it this film does not have a happy ending.
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
With the Paris Agreement and the mainstreaming of alternative energies, it seemed like the world agreed on climate change – and was on the way to fixing it. However recent statements by President Trump have made the world concerned about the United States’ role in the fight to stop global warming. Many attribute the current focus on climate change to Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Now, over 10 years later, and with the fate of the planet hanging in the air, Gore releases his sequel to bolster support for the end of greenhouse gas emissions. The film is set to show during the Special Screening section, but we are sure it will ruffle some feathers this year.
“120 Battements par Minute”
Set in Paris in the 1990s, this French film by director Robin Campillo (“Eastern Boys”) follows the efforts of the Parisian group Speak Out. The organization started in 1989 and works to dispel the stigma and apathy surrounding the AIDS crisis. Campillo’s film depicts the organization in a drama starring Adèle Haenel (“The Unknown Girl”) and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (“All Yours”). While the story is fiction, former president of Speak Up, Philippe Mangeot, was a consultant for the script.
Do you picture yourself at the Cannes festival one day? Check out this interview with NYFA alumni and Cannes winner, Maul Gohel. The Cannes Film Festival will take place May 17th – 28th in Cannes, France.
What are you most excited about in this year’s Cannes? Let us know in the comments below, and learn filmmaking at New York Film Academy!