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PARIS — The Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight, the independently run section traditionally focusing on edgier fare, unveils today a program of 24 features strong on geographical diversity.
The U.S. is repped by three titles, one of which — Karyn Kusama’s “Girlfight” — turned heads at Sundance. The other two indie productions, both world preems, are also by first-time directors. Photographer Edo Bertoglio’s “Downtown 81” is a fictional pic constructed from footage of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, telling the story of a young artist in downtown New York. The 75-minute pic also features Deborah Harry. Former legit director E. Elias Merhige’s “Shadow of the Vampire” stars John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe in a story revolving around the making of classic German vampire movie “Nosferatu,” helmed by F.W. Murnau in 1921.
Overall, the slate feels similar to last year’s, but without any big-name directors to headline the selection, like Spike Lee (1999’s “Summer of Sam”).
Fortnight topper Marie-Pierre Macia, in her sophomore outing, told Daily Variety that she had been impressed with the quality of U.S. product. “It has been an even better year for independent American films than last year,” she said, tipping “Girlfight” — “a very good, energetic film” — as the most likely crowd-pleaser in her lineup.
In keeping with the Fortnight’s recently acquired fondness for earthier British fare (often passed over by the Official Selection), Macia has chosen three titles with working-class backgrounds. “Purely Belter,” by Mark Herman (“Brassed Off,” “Little Voice”), is a comedy about two kids looking for money to buy soccer season tickets. Other two are both first-time features by their respective helmers: legit director Stephen Daldry’s “Dancer,” about an 11-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, and Simon Cellan Jones’ “Some Voices,” a gritty romantic drama with Kelly Macdonald and Daniel Craig.
Macia has snared pics from two regions unrepped in Gilles Jacob’s Official Selection, announced last week: Australia, with coming-of-ager “Mallboy” by Vincent Giarusso, and Central Europe, with “The Werckmeister Harmonies,” a 145-minute B&W opus by cult Hungarian director Bela Tarr.
Whereas Jacob gave Asia top billing this year, the Fortnight has only three films from the region: the existential Japanese drama “Film Noir,” by Masahiro Kobayashi, whose “Bootleg Film” was in last year’s Un Certain Regard; ambitious social drama “Peppermint Candy,” by South Korea’s Lee Chang-Dong of “Green Fish” fame; and the Iranian Kurdish drama “A Time for the Rapture of Horses,” by Bahman Ghobadi.
Two Fortnight favorites return with new works: Georgian-born Nana Djordjadze with the Central Euro-set coming-of-ager “Summer, or 27 Missing Kisses,” and Belgium’s Chantal Akerman with “The Captive.”
Since the recent folding of the Cinemas en France section into the main Fortnight selection, France is heavily represented as usual — this year by seven titles, headlined by fest-circuit regular Karim Dridi with the docu “Cuba Feliz,” centered on a Cuban street singer. Among a slew of first features, which include former Fortnight committee member Olivier Jahan’s “Faites comme si je n’etais pas la,” about an adolescent voyeur, is “Everything’s Fine, Let’s Go,” by relative veteran Claude Mourieras (“Salle gosse”), which will open the Fortnight.
This year’s event is dedicated to late French helmer Robert Bresson, a short filmed interview with whom will precede the opening film.
While the Fortnight has a broader geographical sweep than the Official Selection, notable absentees are Latin America and Africa. “We try as far as possible to balance our choice geographically,” Macia said, “but the quality of the films comes first.”
Like Critics’ Week, which is under new management, the Fortnight is showing signs of trying to broaden itself beyond traditional parameters. As well as the mini-tribute to Bresson, event will also zoom in on veteran Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman with a special screening of an interview broadcast on Swedish TV in which he and longtime thesp/friend Erland Josephson discuss their attitudes toward death.
A further innovation this year is a program of 17 avant-garde/experimental shorts dubbed “En Avant!,” many directed by video artists.