Gondry's 'We and the I' to open Cannes sidebar

Michel Gondry’s “The We and the I” will kick off the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight sidebar, bolstering a slim U.S. presence in a program strong on French and Latin American fare.

Announced Tuesday morning at a Paris press conference, the Fortnight’s 2012 lineup was put together by the team of the sidebar’s new artistic director, Edouard Waintrop, who stepped in when Frederic Boyer ankled after just two years on the job (Boyer is now at Tribeca).

The selection again consists of 21 features, with 18 world premieres and three international preems. Six films are directed by tyro helmers, who will be eligible for the fest’s Camera d’Or for first feature.

Filmed with non-pro high-school students from the Bronx who also co-wrote the pic, “The We and the I,” which looks at group dynamics aboard a bus, will open the sidebar May 17. It’s one of only two U.S. films in the Fortnight, the other being “Room 237,” Rodney Ascher’s docu about “The Shining,” which IFC picked up after its Sundance bow.

“The small number of American films was not premeditated,” Waintrop told Daily Variety, “but rather a result of the fact many American films are part of the official selection and we didn’t want to select lesser films just because they came from the U.S.” (Yank features in the fest’s main lineup include Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” and Sundance discovery “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”)

“We didn’t want to limit ourselves in any way,” Waintrop said, “whether we’re talking about genre, first-time or more experienced filmmakers, country of origin or running time.” Indeed, some of the films are just over an hour long while Indian gangland epic “Gangs of Wasseypur,” from helmer Anurag Kashyap, runs five hours.

Besides the French-born Gondry (“The Green Hornet”), there are a few other name directors who will present new work, including rising U.K. helmer Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”), whose “Sightseers” will receive a special screening, and Chilean helmer Pablo Larrain (“Tony Manero,” “Post Mortem”), who will preem his Gael Garcia Bernal starrer “No.”

Chilean fare is also well represented elsewhere in the selection. “La noche de enfrente,” the final film of Larrain’s countryman Raul Ruiz, who died in August, will receive a special screening. “After ‘Mysteries of Lisbon,’ this film will further consolidate the idea that late Ruiz is very good Ruiz,” said the section’s topper.

A third pic, Swiss-French docu “Operation libertad” from helmer Nicolas Wadimoff, looks at Chile from the Swiss perspective in the 1970s. “The strong Chilean presence is kind of an accident,” Waintrop said, “though this year in general, across all sections of the fest, there’s a strong Latin American presence, so obviously we are aware of the current explosion of talents from there and proportionally have our share of films from there.”

Also from South America are the comedy “3,” from Uruguayan Pablo Stoll Ward (“Whiskey”); “Infancia clandestina,” from Argentinean Benjamin Avila; and; Colombian debut “La Sirga” from William Vega.

Spanish helmer Jaime Rosales, whose “Solitary Fragments” played Un Certain Regard in 2007, will present “Sueno y silencio,” which is in Spanish and three other languages, while Mexican femme Yulene Olaizola (“Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies”) will preem “Fogo,” an English-language feature that was shot in Canada.

Besides Spanish, the other dominant language of this year’s Fortnight is French, with no fewer than five pics from Gaul selected.

Belgian animators Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar (“A Town Called Panic”) have teamed up with Gallic colleague Benjamin Renner for their France-Belgium-Luxembourg co-production “Ernest and Celestine,” a 2D animated feature.

Two Gallic pics are debuts: “Hold Back,” from Rachid Djaidani, and “Alyah” from Elie Wajeman. They are joined by a duo of films by actor-directors: “Adieu Berthe” from Bruno Podalydes (“The Perfume of the Lady in Black”), and “Camille redouble,” from Noemie Lvovsky (onscreen last year in “House of Pleasures”), whose film will close the Fortnight on May 27.

The latter two are both comedies, another recurring trend this year. “Perhaps because of my experience as a cinema owner, I’m very aware of the needs of the public,” Waintrop said. “I love comedies and this year we were lucky in that good comedies were available.”

From further afield come “Dangerous Liaisons” from China’s Hur Jin-ho; Yeun Sang-ho’s South Korean toon “The King of Pigs”; and Iranian entry “A Respectable Family” directed by Massoud Bakhshi. “Pigs” and “Family” are also first films.

Algerian pic “Le Repenti,” from Merzak Allouache, rounds out the 2012 selection described by Waintrop as “a lineup that plays up the contrasts between short and long, laughter and tears, melancholia and euphoria and a general alternation of feelings.”

2012 DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

OPENER
“The We and the I,” U.S., Michel Gondry

MAIN PROGRAM
“3,” Uruguay-Germany-Argentina, Pablo Stoll Ward
“Adieu Berthe,” France, Bruno Podalydes
“Alyah,” France, Elie Wajeman
“The King of Pigs,” South Korea, Yeun Sang-Ho
“Dangerous Liaisons,” China, Hur Jin-Ho
“Ernest and Celestine,” France-Belgium-Luxembourg, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
“Fogo,” Canada, Yulene Olaizola
“Gangs of Wasseypur,” India, Anurag Kashyap
“Infancia clandestina,” Argentina-Spain-Brazil, Benjamin Avila
“La Sirga,” Colombia-France-Mexico, William Vega
“No,” Chili-U.S., Pablo Larrain
“Operation Libertad,” Switzerland-France, Nicolas Wadimoff
“Hold Back,” France, Rachid Djaidani
“Le Repenti,” Algeria, Merzak Allouache
“Room 237,” U.S., Rodney Ascher
“Sueno y silencio,” Spain, Jaime Rosales
“A Respectable Family,” Iran, Massoud Bakhshi

SPECIAL SCREENINGS
“La noche de enfrente,” France-Chile, Raul Ruiz
“Sightseers,” U.K., Ben Wheatley

CLOSER
“Camille redouble,” France, Noemie Lvovsky

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