Cannes: Directors’ Fortnight Unveils 2016 Lineup

Neruda Pablo Larrain

Robust Directors' Fortnight selection is heavy with anticipated films from Italian, North American helmers.

PARIS — Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight sidebar announced the selection for its 48th annual edition today, unveiling an impressive, if slightly smaller-than-usual lineup — 18 features in all — that suggests the renewed vigor and continuing ascendance of the parallel section under the auspices of artistic director Edouard Waintrop.

Compensating for a total absence of Italian films in official competition, the lineup will spotlight a trio of films from a multi-generational and multi-faceted range of Italo auteurs: Marco Bellocchio’s “Sweet Dreams,” Paolo Virzi’s “Like Crazy” and Claudio Giovannesi’s “Fiore.”

“Sweet Dreams” will open the section, which runs from May 12 to 22, marking another coup for Waintrop after a strong 2015 edition: Bellocchio was widely expected to present his latest in Cannes’ official selection and might not have considered the Fortnight sidebar as an option before its major revamping three years ago.

“‘Sweet Dreams’ is film in which Marco Bellocchio shows how well he can trigger emotions. He’s an, intelligent filmmaker, we all know it. Brilliant too, we all know it. I was blown away by this film,” said Waintrop. The artistic director also pointed out the performance from Valerio Mastandrea, who plays opposite Berenice Bejo.

Waintrop opened the press conference with a tearful homage to leading Israeli filmmaker and actress Ronit Elkabetz, who just died at age 51 after a long battle with cancer. Waintrop said he was extremely saddened and shocked upon learning of Elkabetz’s death. The artistic director said had been honored to present Elkabetz’s “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” which she co-wrote and co-directed with her brother Shlomi Amsalem.

A brace of features will carry the North American flag: Paul Schrader’s “Dog Eat Dog,” which closes Directors’ Fortnight; Canadian entries “Mean Dreams” and “Two Lovers and a Bear”; and Laura Poitras’ Julian Assange-focused documentary “Risk.” “I haven’t been able to open a computer ever since I watched this documentary, although the same thing happened to me after I watched ‘Citizenfour,’ ” Waintrop said.

Beyond Schrader and Bellocchio, this year’s Directors’ Fortnight will also showcase another big name for cognoscenti, “Neruda,” from Pablo Larrain, who is currently directing Natalie Portman in “Jacky,” and one of the biggest examples of a breakout Latin American director this decade.

As per tradition, Directors’ Fortnight also showcases an adult-skewed animated feature, “My Life as a Courgette,” Claude Barras’ debut which is based on Gilles Paris’ novel and penned by Celine Sciamma, whose “Girlhood” opened the section two years earlier.

Gaul will be repped by several films, including “Tour de France,” Rachid Djaidani’s follow-up to his 2012 Directors’ Fortnight sensation “Hold Back,” and “The Invisible Ones” director Sebastien Lifshitz’s documentary “Les vies de Therese.”

“Tour de France,” he said, will likely spark debate at Cannes for its depiction of contemporary France and its take on racism.

“‘Tour de France’ is a fable about French society and about the divide which Djaidani perceives between the under-priviledged ones who vote for Far-Right politicians, and those who live on the margins because of their origins,” said Waintrop.

Waintrop singled out another under-the-radar French film, Sacha Wolff debut “Mercenaire,” explaining that the rugby drama “speaks about sports as well as colonial relationships.”

He also had kind words for late “Lulu in the Nude” director Solveig Anspach, who passed away last August, but insisted that they had selected the Icelandic-French helmer’s final feature, “L’effet aquatique,” on its own merits: “It’s not an homage. We got carried away by the Icelandic wind. It was a coup de coeur. It was one our favorites among the French movies we saw this year,” Waintrop said.

2016 DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT LINEUP

OPENER

“Sweet Dreams” (Marco Bellocchio, Italy). After unveiling “Blood of My Blood” in competition at Venice last fall, Bellochio delivers a Berenice Bejo starrer, about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death. Bellocchio was last in Cannes with 2009’s “Vincere.”

FEATURE FILMS

“After Love” (Joachim Lafosse, France-Belgium). The Belgian director’s intimate drama centers on a husband and wife who break up and decide to continue sharing the same roof for financial reasons. His last movie, “The White Knights,” bowed in Toronto’s inaugural competition section last fall, while his 2012 drama, “Our Children,” was critically acclaimed in Un Certain Regard. Sales: Le Pacte

“Divines” (Uda Benyamina, French). One of four distaff-directed films in the lineup, this feature debut from a rising French-Moroccan multi-talent (who writes, directs and acts) focuses on a young Arab woman who deals drugs in the Les Pyramides ghetto outside Paris. Sales: Film Boutique

“Endless Poetry” (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chile-Japan-France). Three years after Directors’ Fortnight shone the spotlight on the cult Chilean director, debuting both his autobiographical “The Dance of Reality” and docu “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” the section will premiere the 87-year-old auteur’s latest feature, recounting his young adulthood in a bohemian Santiago de Chile and his breakthrough as a poet. Sales: Uplink

“Fiore” (Claudio Giovannesi, Italy). The third feature by young director Giovannesi, is a romancer set in a Southern Italian juvenile detention center where sexes aren’t supposed to mix. It’s co-produced by Italy’s Rai Cinema and Gaul’s Pupkin Production. Giovannesi made an international splash with coming-of-age drama “Alì Blue Eyes” which went to Tribeca in 2013.

“L’effet aquatique” (Solveig Anspach, France). Debuting nearly nine months after the director’s death last August, this French drama examines a relationship based on a lie, as a Montreuil construction worker falls for a local swimmer, signing up for lessons at the local pool as a pretext to get her attention. Sales: Le Pacte

“Like Crazy” (Paolo Virzi, Italy). From the director of “Human Capital” and “The First Beautiful Thing,” this lively Italian entry follows two mental patients — one claims to be a rich countess, while the other keeps her delusions to herself — who escape their institution, their subsequent encounters blurring the lines between sanity and insanity. Sales: Bac Films

“Mean Dreams” (Nathan Morlando, Canada). One of two Canadian movies in the section, Morlando’s sophomore outing is a tense thriller starring Sophie Nélisse and Josh Wiggins as two youngsters who escape abusive homes. Bill Paxton stars as a corrupt local cop. Waintrop indicated that one of the film’s strengths was Paxton’s against-type turn as a menacing villain.

“Mercenaire” (Sacha Wolff, France). A La Femis film school grad mentored by French vet helmer Bruno Dumont (who has “Slack Bay” in Cannes’ competition), Wolff makes his feature debut, which follows six weeks in the life of a young South Pacific immigrant who joins a French rugby team.

“My Life as a Courgette” (Claude Barras, France). Adapted from Gilles Paris’ novel by Celine Sciamma,  this stop-motion movie relates the story of a boy who’s taken away from his abusive alcoholic mother and put into a group home, where he tries to find his place among the other misfit kids. Sales: Indiesales

“Neruda” (Pablo Larrain, Chile-France-Spain-Argentina). The Chilean director returns to Directors’ Fortnight, which he won with “No” in 2012, with one of Latin America’s biggest titles of 2016, the Participant Media-backed and Funny Balloons-sold manhunt drama “Neruda” capturing the Nobel Prize winner over 1946-’48, on the run and hounded by a dogged police inspector (Gael Garcia Bernal). Sales: Wild Bunch

“Psycho Raman” (Anurag Kashyap, India). Following “Ugly,” the director-producer responsible for a flurry of movies that have played in Cannes in recent years — most notably his two-part “Gangs of Wasseypur” — returns to Directors’ Fortnight with this psychological thriller starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the infamous serial killer Raman Raghav.

“Risk” (Laura Poitras, U.S.). The Oscar-winning director of “Citizenfour” turns her camera on another controversial figure, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, in this immersive documentary, which continues Poitras’ courageous examination of voices who question authority in an era of ever-increasing surveillance and paranoia.

“Tour de France” (Rachid Djaidani, France). Following his 2012 Directors’ Fortnight sensation, “Hold Back,” Djaidani is back in Edouard Waintrop’s lineup to present this drama, about the unlikely friendship between an aging bigot (played by Gerard Depardieu) and a young rap singer who are forced to embark on a road trip across France. Sales: Cite Films.

“Two Lovers and a Bear” (Kim Nguyen, Canada). Set nearly as far north as one can possibly go in Canada, this indie relationship story from the director of 2012’s “War Witch” stars Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany as Roman and Lucy, a couple of lonely hearts seeking connection in a remote Nunavut town.

“Les Vies de Therese” (Sebastien Lifshitz, France). A look at the life and impact of French feminist Therese Clerc, whom Lifshitz included as a character in his Cesar-winning 2012 documentary “The Invisible Ones,” about elderly gay and lesbian couples. This portrait presumably examines the many chapters of her life.

“Wolf and Sheep” (Shahrbanoo Sadat, Denmark). The Afghan director teamed with Danish producer Katja Adomeit on this feature debut, which is filled with fantasy elements, portraying the life of a group of Afghan shepherd girls and boys in a secluded village of the war-torn country.

CLOSING NIGHT

“Dog Eat Dog” (Paul Schrader, U.S.). Based on the gritty book by ex-con novelist Edward Bunker, this late-career film noir from the writer of “Taxi Driver” could potentially be a comeback for Schrader, who saw his last project, “Dying of the Light,” taken away from him in the final stages. The project reteams him with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe, who play once-incarcerated acquaintances torn between the prospect of a normal life and the temptation of one last con.

(John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.)

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