Cannes Plays Host to Plethora of Documentary Features

While only a handful of documentary features have been selected for Cannes’ Official Selection, plenty of non-fiction action can be found in Cannes Market’s Doc Corner and environs, where doc professionals converge to get first looks at — or the first word on — titles with potential to connect with audiences on screens, large and small, in the near future.

The Docs-in-Progress series, running May 18-20, a main attraction of Doc Corner, presents four works-in-progress apiece from Argentina, Canada, Chile, Norway, Palestine and South Africa. These sessions are programmed with documentary or film partner organizations from the respective countries. This year the Monaco-based International Emerging Film Talent Assn. is sponsoring a €10,000 ($11,200), jury-selected prize that will be given to one of the projects to support completion.

Last month, at the close of the pitch program of Visions du Reel, the Swiss rendezvous for documentary film, filmmaker Alessandra Celesia’s “The Flats (Once We Were Terrorists)” won the Cannes Market-Cannes Festival Award. This gave Celesia and her producer access to Doc Corner, where they’ll be chatting up their feature about residents of a Catholic area in the heart of Belfast, and what their lives are like more than 20 years after the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement.

With gender parity a goal for many film presenting companies and organizations, decision-makers are on the lookout for films by or about women. So it’s no surprise some of most fascinating non-fiction titles in production fit the bill.

Peabody Award-winning director Maria Finitzo’s “The Dilemma of Desire” will explore the “clash between the power of gender politics and the equally powerful imperatives of female sexual desire.” “Minding the Gap” producer Diane Quon and Cynthia Kane (formerly an executive at Sundance Channel and ITVS) serve as producers; Ro*Co Films is handling sales.

Dogwoof’s slate includes “Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema,” Mark Cousins’ 13-decade and five-continent spanning celebratory canon — narrated by Jane Fonda and Tilda Swinton, its executive producer — about the history of cinema through the world’s great female directors.

Dogwoof is also repping Midge Costin’s “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound,” which is screening as an Official Selection in Cannes Classics, the 3-D documentary “Cunningham” (Magnolia acquired it for the U.S.), which includes never-before-seen footage of famed choreographer Merce Cunningham, as well as Tim Travers Hawkins’ Tribeca-premiering “XY Chelsea,” about the controversial whistleblower.

Altitude Film Sales’ slate includes James Erskine’s “Billie,” which is anchored on material from 200 hours of never-before-heard audio interviews with Billie Holiday that were recorded in the 1970s by journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl.

The company also has Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s “Chasing Chaplin,” which uses newly discovered audio recordings and other material from Chaplin’s personal and creative archive.

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