U.S. films fill Directors’ Fortnight

Cannes sidebar lineup announced

PARIS — The U.S. has a hefty five titles in the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight sidebar lineup, announced today, only just behind France’s six films.

However, Ramin Bahrani’s “Chop Shop,” about immigrant New Yorkers in Brooklyn, will be the only real surprise.

Three other films in the main selection, Julianne Moore starrer “Savage Grace,” Robinson Devor’s “Zoo” and Gregg Araki’s “Smiley Face,” have all screened previously in other festivals (the latter two in Sundance).

The fifth U.S. pic is William Friedkin’s 1980 film “Cruising,” with Al Pacino.

Bestiality, in “Zoo,” and husband-beating, in Jan Bonny’s German title “Gegenuber,” are among the unlikelier themes in the Euro-heavy lineup that includes nine first films.

Close human relationships — or their absence — are the predominant theme in pics such as previous Directors’ Fortnight selectee “Avant que j’oublie,” a Jacques Nolot pic about a 58-year-old loner dealing with the death of a friend and AIDS; Lenny Abrahamson’s Irish pic “Garage,” featuring a star turn by thesp Pat Shortt as a lonely misfit working in an isolated gas station; and “Gegenuber,” about a cop who is the unlikely victim of domestic violence.

Brillante Mendoza’s Filipino pic “Foster Child” concerns a poor foster family’s attachment to a 3-year-old who is about to be adopted by an American family; Pedro Aguilera’s Spanish-Mexican co-production “La influencia” centers on a mother who can’t cope; Mia Hansen-Love’s “All Is Forgiven” is an autobiographical tale about a 17-year-old getting back in touch with her estranged father.

“This year, Directors’ Fortnight is all about human emotion, about intimate relationships, grieving, passion, love. A lot of the films are very moving, very heartrending,” the sidebar’s artistic director Olivier Pere told Daily Variety.

Selectors viewed around 1,000 submissions this year, he said.

Fortnight bows May 19, the day after the main festival, with this year’s previously announced opener “Control,” a biopic about the life and early suicide of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the English rock band Joy Division.

Other real-life relationships also are in the mix. French actress Sandrine Bonnaire’s first feature-length film as a helmer, “Elle s’appelle Sabine,” is a documentary about her autistic sister.

“The film was a surprise because of its subject and the adept way Bonnaire has handled its telling, with just the right amount of distance,” Pere said.

Also upping the selection’s star power this year is Catherine Deneuve, in Gael Morel’s “Apres lui,” while Gallic thesps Sylvie Testud and Pascal Greggory topline Serge Bozon’s “La France,” about a wife who goes in search of her missing husband in WWI.

Sex in different guises also is on the menu this year, in Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s “Ploy,” an erotic psychological thriller from Thailand, and in American helmer Devor’s unusual docu “Zoo,” about a Seattle family man who belonged to a secret club of bestiality devotees.

Spiros Stathoulopoulos’ Colombian film “PVC-1” is another pic based on a true-life story, this time about a hostage turned into a human time-bomb by her kidnappers. Entire one-hour, 40-minute pic movie shot in a single take.

“It is very effective, very gripping,” Pere said.

Conversely, Japanese TV star Hitoshi Matsumoto’s comic helming debut, the live action and f/x pic “Dai Nippon jin,” is a fantasy about a TV crew that follows a down-and-out fellow who turns out to be an unloved superhero.

Pic provides a rare dose of humor in the lineup this year with “Smiley Face.”

Society’s ails are the subject of Nicolas Klotz’s novel adaptation “The Heartbeat Detector,” about a human resources department psychologist who stumbles on some dark secrets in his petrochemical company. Sidebar also contains an omnibus film, “The State of the World,” made to mark the 50th anniversary of Portugal’s Gulbenkian Foundation, with contributions from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Vicente Ferraz, Ayisha Abraham, Wang Bing, Pedro Costa and Chantal Akerman.

Lebanon has two very different pics in the lineup, the societal comedy “Caramel,” from popvid helmer Nadine Labaki, and “A Lost Man,” by Danielle Arbid, who was in Directors’ Fortnight in 2004 with her helming debut, “In the Battlefields.” New pic about a photographer’s voyeuristic experiences in nighttime Beirut is inspired by real-life photographer Antoine d’Agata.

“It’s very beautiful, very modern,” Pere said.

Sidebar will close with the “poetic” Brazilian pic “Mutum,” about young kids in an isolated farm in Brazil.

In addition to its usual lineup of new short films, some 10 titles this year, sidebar will also screen restored copies of classic French shorts “The Red Balloon” and “White Mane.”

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