Majority of titles are first films

The Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week sidebar has a strong Latino beat this year, while 12 out of 14 titles are first films.

French fare also features prominently in the lineup unveiled in Paris on Thursday.

Just one U.S. pic made the cut, Cecilia Miniucchi’s closing-night title “Expired,” a bittersweet comedy starring Samantha Morton and Jason Patric.

The three Latino pics in the main lineup of seven features are recent Guadalajara Film Festival prize winner “Parpados azules” (Blue Eyelids), about the search for identity from Mexican helmer Ernesto Contreras; Lucia Puenzo’s hermaphrodite tale “XXY” (an Argentina/France/Spain co-production); and “A via lacteal” (The Milky Way), a nonlinear film by Brazil’s Lina Chamie that artistic director Jean-Christophe Berjon described as a “display of fireworks.”

“There is a wave of creativity, daring and energy in Latin American cinema right now,” Berjon said. “This year, there were so many films we liked from the region we had to turn some down.”

Sidebar officials viewed 600 features and 650 shorts, up from previous years.

Adding to the Latino flavor of this year’s lineup, Critics’ Week ambassador Gael Garcia Bernal (discovered in the sidebar hit “Amores perros” almost a decade ago) will, as previously reported, be presenting his first feature film, “Deficit” as well as the 67-minute pic “The Thief,” the sidebar’s coup de coeur this year according to Berjon. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron are among other Latino helmers expected to attend Bernal’s bash May 20.

Back in the main feature lineup, France is repped by David Oelhoffen’s “Nos Retrouvailles” (“In Your Wake”), with Jacques Gamblin as a dad coming back into the life of his son, played by Nicolas Giraud, and Belgian helmer Micha Wald’s Belgium-France co-production “Horse Thieves,” with Gregoire Colin, Adrien Jolivet and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet. Berjon describes the pic as a “Western set 200 years ago.”

Israel secures a place in the main lineup with Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen’s Israel/France co-production “Meduzot” (Jellyfish), an ensembler about the shift from youth to adulthood among a group of young Israelis.

Japan provides the selection’s only sophomore pic, “Funukedomo, kanashimi no ai wo misero” (Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers) by Daihachi Yoshida.

“It’s an intriguing film full of disconcerting things, such as manga sequences and funny split screens when the film is at a serious point. It’s charming and very audacious,” Berjon said.

Two of the sidebar’s traditional selections of seven shorts hail from Brazil, while the others come from Canada, U.K./Lebanon, France, New Zealand and Bulgaria.

Sidebar will open with Bruno Merle’s film noir “Hero,” with French comic Michael Youn in his first serious role.

Other special screenings — there are seven in all — include two more overtly genre films: “The Orphanage,” a ghost story drama that was produced by Guillermo del Toro, and “Inside,” a Gallic gore film with Beatrice Dalle; Alysson Paradis, younger sister of Vanessa; and Nicholas Duvauchelle.

Docus are repped by Bulgarian film “The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories,” which deals with life in an Eastern Bloc town in the years after communism.

Critics’ Week will also present “Yo,” the Fipresci Revelation of the Year, which screened at Rotterdam earlier this year, and “Ezra,” about an African child soldier’s difficult return to civilian life.

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