Sidebar favors alumni, U.S., Francophone pics

Francis Ford Coppola is to open the 41st edition of Directors’ Fortnight (May 14-24) with his Argentina-set family drama “Tetro.” The self-financed production stars Vincent Gallo as an exiled writer who’s visited in Buenos Aires by his estranged younger brother. Helmer will self-distribute the movie in the U.S. through his own American Zoetrope Releasing.

Pic was originally offered a non-competing slot by Thierry Fremaux in this year’s Official Selection, which Coppola declined. Fortnight topper Olivier Pere then stepped in with his own offer — arguably snagging one of the biggest names for the Cannes sidebar in recent memory.

“After Coppola announced that he wouldn’t show ‘Tetro’ out of competition, we asked to screen it for the Quinzaine,” Pere told Daily Variety. “We loved it! And our enthusiasm convinced Coppola that an opening Fortnight slot would be the ideal place to debut his film.”

With five features, including “Tetro,” U.S. directors have a stronger presence in the Fortnight than in Cannes’ Competition. Two are sexually edgy comedies that already screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor starrer, “I Love You Phillip Morris,” an openly gay romcom directed by freshmen duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, has yet to find a distributor Stateside. Pic was co-produced by Gaul’s EuropaCorp, who will handle the French release.

Writer-director Lynn Shelton’s lowbudget comedy, “Humpday,” about two straight friends who attempt to make an amateur gay porno, was picked up by Magnolia at Sundance. Stateside release is skedded for mid-July.

“Contemporary American comedies have grown more and more interesting in recent years,” Pere told Daily Variety. “The Fortnight always goes for films that reflect contemporary reality, but this year we leaned more towards movies that approach the subject with a sense of distance and humor.”

The U.S. selection also includes another lowbudget, mumblecore-brand film, Josh and Benny Safdie’s “Go Get Some Rosemary.” Josh Safdie’s previous feature, “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” was in the 2008 Fortnight.

American presence is rounded out by a third Sundance title, U.S.-born Palestinian/Jordanian director Cherien Dabis’ immigrant indie dramedy “Amreeka.” Critically acclaimed debut was picked up by National Geographic Entertainment, who plans a fall release Stateside.

Aside from Coppola, the sidebar, which unveiled its lineup in Paris on Friday, also includes other auteurs more usually associated with Cannes’ Official Selection.

Portuguese arthouse fave Pedro Costa — whose “Colossal Youth” competed in the fest’s 2006 edition — will preem his docu, “Ne change rien.” The French-Portuguese co-prod trails Gallic thesp/singer Jeanne Balibar through rehearsals and concerts across the globe.

South Korean helmer and Cannes regular Hong Sang-soo will present his new film “Like You Know It All.” Hong competed twice for the Palme d’Or in 2004 and 2005.

Fortnights’ closing film is debuting duo Yaron Shani’s and Scandar Copti’s fast-paced and violent youth drama, “Ajami.” Jaffa-set story relates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through multiple viewpoints as characters clash throughout the city’s dangerous streets. Shani is Israeli and Copti is Palestinian. German salesco Match Factory will handle international sales.

Francophone films from Gaul and Canada are another staple in this year’s selection. French vet Luc Moullet will preem his docu, “Land of Madness,” about the over-abundance of violent family crime in his native Southern Alps region. Arthouse comic director Alain Guiraudie will present his latest romp, “Le roi de l’evasion.” Popular local comic book artist Riad Sattouf debuts with “Les beaux gosses,” a teenage comedy about a sex-obsessed loner who can’t manage to get a date.

Two French co-prods include the Franco-Japanese family drama “Yuki & Nina,” co-directed by Japanese auteur Nobuhiro Suwa and Gallic thesp Hippolyte Girardot, who makes his helming debut; and Axel Ropert’s Franco-Belgian dramedy “La Famille Wolberg,” about a family coming apart over their daughter’s upcoming 18th birthday party.

Quebecois films rep their strongest Fortnight presence in recent years, with three titles, including 19-year old thesper Xavier Dolan’s helming debut, “J’ai tue ma mere” (I Killed My Mother). Director Denis Villeneuve’s “Polytechnique” dramatizes the 1989 massacre of several female engineering students by a gun-wielding misogynist in Montreal’s Polytechnique School.

“Carcasses,” the third feature by scriber-helmer Denis Cote, is an intimate drama set in a monumental junkyard of rusting automobiles.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had this many Quebecois films in the selection, which gives the Quinzaine a more Francophone feel than usual,” explained Pere.

Non-North American or European titles are, as in the Official Selection, less present than in previous years. The Bulgarian race-crime drama “Eastern Plays,” by freshman helmer Kamen Kalev, and the Singaporean experimental narrative “Here” by contemporary artist Tzu-Nyen Ho are two such examples.

Both films will be vying for the Camera d’Or, along with the Mexican director Michel Franco’s “Daniel & Ana,” about two teenagers whose lives are thrown into turmoil by a kidnapping.

Other Camera d’Or contenders are closer “Ajami,” “Les beaux gosses” and “J’ai tue ma mere.”

“I think the variety of this year’s selection will surprise our audience,” quipped Pere, who’s overseeing his sixth and last edition before taking the reins at Locarno later this year.

“I hope to continue the auteur-driven work I’ve been doing during six years at the Fortnight, but with more ambition and a greater scope.”

As for his successor, the SRF (Societe des Realisateurs de Films, which runs the Fortnight) is currently reviewing a short list of remaining candidates, and plans for an announcement once the fest hits the Croisette.

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT LINEUP
“La Pivellina,” Austria, Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
“The Alasness of Things,” Belgium-Netherlands, Felix van Groeningen
“Eastern Plays,” Bulgaria-Sweden, Kamen Kalev
“Carcasses,” Canada, Denis Cote
“J’ai tue ma mere,” Canada, Xavier Dolan
“Polytechnique,” Canada, Denis Villeneuve
“Navidad,” Chile, Sebastian Lelio
“Oxhide II,” China, Liu Jia Yin
“La famille Wolberg,” France-Belgium, Axelle Ropert
“Land of Madness,” France, Luc Moullet
“Le roi de l’evasion,” France, Alain Guiraudie
“Les beaux gosses,” France, Riad Sattouf
“Yuki & Nina,” France-Japan, Nobuhiro Suwa, Hippolyte Girardot
“Ajami,” Israel-Germany, Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani (closer) “Daniel & Ana,” Mexico-Spain, Michel Franco
“Karaoke,” Malaysia, Chan Fui (Chris) Chong
“Ne change rien,” Portugal-France, Pedro Costa
“Here,” Singapore-Canada, Tzu-Nyen Ho
“Like You Know It All,” South Korea, Hong Sang-soo
“Amreeka,” U.S., Cherien Dabis
“Go Get Some Rosemary,” U.S.-France, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
“Humpday,” U.S., Lynn Shelton
“I Love You Phillip Morris,” U.S.-France, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
“Tetro,” Argentina-Spain-Italy, Francis Ford Coppola (opener)

SPECIAL SCREENING
“Montparnasse,” France, Mikhael Hers

SHORT FILMS
“Cicada,” Australia, Amiel Courtin-Wilson
“Jagdfieber,” Belgium, Alessandro Comodin
“Superbarroco,” Brazil, Renata Pinheiro
“Anna,” Denmark, Runar Runarsson
“Nice,” France, Maud Alpi
“The Fugitives,” France, Guillaume Leiter
“Thermidor,” France, Virgil Vernier
“The History of Aviation,” Hungry, Balint Kenyeres
“Song of Love and Health,” Portugal-France, Joao Nicolau
“Dust Kid,” South Korea, Jung Yu-mi
“The Attack of the Robots from Nebuma-5,” Spain, Chema Garcia Ibarra
“Drommar Fran Skogen,” Sweden, Johannes Nyholm
“American Minor,” U.S., Charlie White
“John Wayne Hated Horses,” U.S., Andrew Betzer

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