French and Asian fare top festival sidebar

The 49th Cannes Critics’ Week unveiled its lineup Monday evening in Paris, with a competition program that includes seven first-time features and a selection otherwise dominated by Gallic and Asian titles.

A strong showing from France boasts three shorts and four features, including Michel Leclerc’s noncompeting opener “The Names of Love,” a racy Jewish-Arab love story starring Jacques Gamblin and Sara Forestier. Pic will be repped at Cannes by French sales outfit TF1 Intl. with TFM Distribution handling theatrical in Gaul.

Repping France in competition is Rebecca Zlotowski’s debut, “Belle epine,” a 1980s-set coming-of-ager starring Gallic it-girl Lea Seydoux (also in Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”) as a young woman who loses her mother and immerses herself in the world of motorcycle racing.

The two other French features, set for special screenings, are Quentin Dupieux’s offbeat road comedy “Rubber,” which features a wandering tire as its main character and a supporting cast of U.S. thesps; and Marc Fitoussi’s family dramedy, “Copacabana,” starring Isabelle Huppert as a mother who goes out of her way to win back the love of her estranged daughter.

“It was a pleasure to pick these films, and not because they’re French,” topper Jean-Christophe Berjon told Daily Variety . “Three of them are rather audacious comedies, and we thought it was the right time to have some feel-good movies on the Croisette.”

Three Asian films have landed competition slots: Korean helmer and former Kim Ki-duk assistant Jang Cheol-so’s genre-jumping psychological drama “Bedevilled”; Vietnamese writer-director Phan Dang Di’s “Bi, Don’t Be Afraid,” a slice of family realism that was developed in the Cannes Cinefondation program; and Singapore director Boo Junfeng’s “Sandcastle,” an English- and Mandarin-language drama repped by Dutch sales outfit Fortissimo.

The U.S. will be repped in competition by indie helmer David Robert Mitchell’s Detroit-set teen dramedy “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” which preemed at last month’s SXSW Film Festival.

Competish program is rounded out by Danish filmmaker Janus Metz’s “Armadillo,” a doc about two soldiers traumatized by their experience in Afghanistan; and “Sound of Noise,” a gonzo Swedish-French genre pic by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson, which they describe as the “first musical thriller.”

“Critics’ Week has always been about helping debuting filmmakers get greater exposure, and this year we really wanted to focus on first-time directors,” Berjon said. “Otherwise, a few comedies can’t hurt anyone, especially in a festival as self-serious as Cannes.”

A closing feature will be announced in the coming days.

Cannes Critics’ Week takes place from May 13-21.

49TH CANNES CRITICS’ WEEK

COMPETITION
“Armadillo,” Denmark, Janus Metz
“Bedevilled,” South Korea, Jang Cheol-so
“Belle epine,” France, Rebecca Zlotowski
“Bi, Don’t Be Afraid,” Vietnam-France-Germany, Phan Dang Di
“The Myth of the American Sleepover,” U.S., David Robert Mitchell
“Sandcastle,” Singapore, Boo Junfeng
“Sound of Noise,” Sweden-France, Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjarne Nilsson

SPECIAL SCREENINGS
“The Names of Love,” France, Michel Leclerc
“Rubber,” France, Quentin Dupieux
“Copacabana,” France, Marc Fitoussi

COMPETITION SHORTS
“A distracao de Ivan,” Brazil, Cavi Borges, Gustavo Melo
“Berik,” Denmark, Daniel Joseph Borgman
“The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Lion,” U.K., Alois Di Leo
“Deeper Than Yesterday,” Australia, Ariel Kleiman
“Love Patate,” France, Gilles Cuvelier
“Native Son,” U.K., Scott Graham
“Vasco,” France, Sebastien Maudenbach

SPECIAL SCREENINGS — SHORTS AND MEDIUM-LENGTH FILMS
“L’amour-propre,” France, Nicolas Silhol
“Cynthia todavia tienes las llaves,” Argentina, Gonzalo Tobal
“Fracture,” France, Nicolas Sarkissian

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