Nate Parker’s politically charged drama “American Skin” is set to play at the 45th edition of the Deauville American Film Festival following its world premiere at Venice.
“American Skin,” which tells the story of a Gulf War veteran whose son is killed by a police officer, marks Parker’s first feature film since the news resurfaced that he had once been charged and acquitted of rape. His debut film, “The Birth of a Nation,” won a prize at Sundance in 2016 but flopped at the box office.
Parker directed and stars in “American Skin.” News of the film’s inclusion in Deauville’s lineup comes a day after it was revealed that “A Rainy Day in New York” by Woody Allen, who has also confronted allegations of sexual assault, would open the festival.
At the same time, Deauville will showcase six films directed by women, the most in the feet’s history, including Danielle Lessovitz’s “Port Authority,” Annie Silverstein’s “Bull” and Pippa Bianco’s “Share.”
Both “Port Authority” and “Bull” played in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, while “Share,” which previously opened at Sundance and won the acting prize, played in the Special Screenings section at Cannes.
The festival’s artistic director, Bruno Barde, said the larger proportion of women-directed movies in Deauville this year is explained primarily by the quality of these films and the fact that female directors submitted 75 films in 2019, compared to 49 in 2018.
“Some of these films are close to masterpieces and we might have a young woman director winning the top award this year, like we’ve had before with Kelly Reichardt for ‘Night Moves,’ for instance,” said Barde, adding that he believes the “future of creation is female.”
Barde said many of the films competing, even those directed by men, have female protagonists and deal with themes such as female emancipation, the battle against gender stereotypes, identity struggle and coming of age.
Although the inclusion of Allen’s and Parker’s films in Deauville has raised eyebrows in the U.S., it has generated no controversy in France, where the approach to and reception of the #MeToo movement has been much laxer.
The rest of the competition will include several high-profile U.S. indies, including Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, and Michael Angelo Covino’s “The Climb,” which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics at Cannes, where it won the Un Certain Regard award.
Deauville’s out-of-competition roster will showcase Benedict Andrews’ “Seberg” with Kristen Stewart, Ciro Guerra’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” and Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” as well as Gurinder Chadha’s “Blinded by the Light.” Also set for out-of-competition are “A Rainy Day in New York” and Olivier Assayas’ “Wasp Network,” the opening and closing night movies, respectively.
As in the last few years, studio movies will be absent from Deauville. Barde said the lack of studio movies at the fest reflects the state of a U.S. industry that is increasingly polarized between creatively daring independent films, which value the role of international festivals, and risk-averse studio movies, which don’t.
On top of having the largest number of female-directed films in competition at Deauville, the honorees of this 45th edition will all be women. Stewart, Sienna Miller and Geena Davis will receive the Deauville Talent Awards, while Sophie Turner will receive the Young Hollywood Award. Turner will present the French premiere of her latest film, “Heavy,” as well as the marathon screenings of all eight seasons of “Game of Thrones.”
Davis, who is a dedicated activist for women’s rights, will present the documentary “This Changes Everything,” which she produced. The documentary explores gender disparities in Hollywood with interviews of Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett, among others. The unspooling of the documentary will be followed by a debate with female professionals from the film industry.
Stewart and Miller will be on hand for the French premieres of “Seberg” and “American Woman,” respectively.
Deauville will also have female jury presidents, the French actresses Catherine Deneuve for the competition and Anna Mouglalis for the Revelation jury. The competition jury includes Claire Burger, Valéria Golino, Vicky Krieps, Antonin Baudry, Jean-Pierre Duret, Gaël Morel, Orelsan, Nicolas Saada and Gaspard Ulliel.
Ladj Ly’s Cannes Jury prize-winning drama “Les Miserables” will also play in Deauville, where it will receive the Ornano-Valenti prize, an award given by critics for the best first French film of the year.