Michell's 'Mother' among 1st Cannes picks

PARIS — “Notting Hill” helmer Roger Michell’s “The Mother” was one of five Directors Fortnight titles revealed Wednesday in a first hint of the flavor of the Cannes sidebar under new artistic director Francois da Silva.

The pic, starring Anne Reid and Daniel Craig and scripted by Hanif Kureishi, is about a 65-year-old suburban English woman who has an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend.

Da Silva told Daily Variety: “It was an incredible surprise to find a film like this from the director of ‘Notting Hill.’ I’m very happy to have it.”

The artistic director has visited 20 countries in search of movies for the sidebar, which he took over after his predecessor, Marie-Pierre Macia, was fired last year.

A former arthouse programmer from Marseilles, Da Silva comes from outside the usual Gallic film circuit. He has vowed to restore the sidebar’s credentials as an alternative to the main festival — but skeptics are wondering if he will be able to keep the Societe des Realisateurs de Films, the Gallic directors organization that created the sidebar, at arm’s length when making his selections.

“I know that some people are waiting for me to make a slip, but I’m not bothered about that,” said Da Silva affably. “The spotlight on Cannes is so important that I can change a film director’s life. That’s the biggest responsibility.”

Among the French pics selected are Mathieu Amalric’s third feature, “La Chose publique,” and Alain Guiraudie’s full-length debut “Pas de Repos pour les braves” (No Rest for the Courageous). Guiraudie’s short film “Ce vieux reve qui bouge” was a previous Directors Fortnight choice.

“He’s really one of France’s most promising directors,” Da Silva said.

From Japan comes “Gozu,” a yakuza film by Takashi Miike. Da Silva also chose Afghanistan’s first feature film since the fall of the Taliban, Sedigh Barmak’s “Ossama,” about three generations of Afghan women under the oppressive regime.

The short-film lineup will include Israeli helmer Hadar Friedlich’s 50-minute “Slaves of the Lord,” about religion and adolescence in orthodox Jerusalem, and the Japanese “Nasu — Summer in Andalucia,” a 46-minute film by Kitaro Kosaka, the animation director of “Princess Mononoke.”

Saying he had already selected half of the films that will go into the Directors Fortnight lineup, Da Silva said he was not competing for films with the higher profile Official Selection, as has been the case in previous years.

“I am not interested in the same sorts of films as the main festival,” he said. “Directors Fortnight should be about discovering new talent, about breaking new ground.”

The complete Directors Fortnight list of 25 full-length features and 15 shorts will be announced April 25.

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