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Cannes: 2021 Lineup to Feature Sean Baker, Sean Penn and Record Number of Women Directors

Cannes programmers unveil 62 more titles to screen alongside previously announced premieres 'Annette,' 'Bernadette' and Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch.'

The Story of My Wife

It’s comeback time for the Cannes Film Festival as the world’s preeminent showcase for world cinema plans its return, announcing an official selection packed with big-name auteurs — such as Wes Anderson (“The French Dispatch”), Leox Carax (“Annette”), Paul Verhoeven (“Benedetta”), Sean Penn (“Flag Day”), Sean Baker (“Red Rocket”), Asghar Farhadi (“A Hero) and past Palme d’Or winners Jacques Audiard (“Les Olympiades”) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Memoria”) — as well as many notable women directors, including Hungarian helmer Ildikó Enyedi (“The Story of My Wife”) and “Raw” director Julia Ducournau (“Titane”).

The lineup, which consists of a whopping 24 competition titles, was unveiled by Thierry Frémaux, artistic director and general delegate, who was upbeat as ever, and festival president Pierre Lescure. Fremaux indicated that he has yet to reveal a major blockbuster premiere (not “West Side Story,” “Dune” or “No Time to Die”) to screen on the beach and the closing-night film.

Women are well represented throughout the program, with Charlotte Gainsbourg debuting a portrait of her mother, Jane Birkin, and British director Andrea Arnold presenting her latest feature, “Cow” — both in a new section called Cannes Premiere, where Oliver Stone will also show his new documentary “JFK: Through the Looking Glass.” American director Tom McCarthy will debut Matt Damon thriller “Stillwater” out of competition, while Todd Haynes is set to screen new documentary “The Velvet Underground” there as well. The Un Certain Regard roster is filled with emerging women directors, notably the actor-turned-helmer Hafsia Herzi with “Bonne Mère,” a drama set in Northern Marseille, in an underprivileged neighborhood.

The number of competition titles directed by women ties 2019’s high-water mark of four. Enyedi, who won Berlin’s Golden Bear with “Body and Soul,” will screen ”The Story of My Wife,” starring Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel. Mia Hansen-Løve brings “Bergman Island,” a melodrama with Mia Wasikowska, Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps, about a couple of American filmmakers who travel to the Swedish island of Faro to write their respective films. Ducournau, meanwhile, graduates to competition with her horror drama “Titane,” featuring Vincent Lindon as a father whose son resurfaces at an airport after having disappeared for 10 years. And Catherine Corsini gets another shot at the Palme d’Or (two decades after “La Repetition”) with French social drama-comedy “La fracture.”

After being forced to cancel the 2020 edition on account of the pandemic, Cannes vowed to return with a live event that would bring back the glamour, stars and prestigious filmmakers. According to Frémaux, all of the filmmakers selected last year — and who accepted the symbolic “Cannes Label” in lieu of an in-person premiere on the Croisette — have been invited to attend this year’s event, though many are busy working on new work.

“Cinema is not dead,” said Frémaux, “and the return of audiences to movie theaters around the world was the first good news. And the festival will be the second good news.” During an extensive presentation of the official selection, Fremaux said the lineup was “very international” and includes several films that will reflect the times, for instance “lockdown films” in which “characters are wearing masks”; films or documentaries about whistleblowers; and many “films questioning who we are and what this world is becoming.”

Getting there has been a long, maze-like journey for organizers, who had to postpone the festival from its initial May dates to July 6-17, at the start of the high season for Cannes hotel owners. Even if the number of films submitted reached a record 2,300 titles, Frémaux had the difficult task of keeping up discussions with international filmmakers, producers and studios to secure high-profile titles, despite strong doubts and concerns over the volatile health situation, successive pandemic waves, and the arrival of variants in recent months.

Some of the most anticipated films of this edition include Leos Carax’s musical romance “Annette” with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, which will kick off the festival; Verhoeven’s subversive period thriller “Benedetta,” set in the late 15th century and starring Virginie Efira as a novice nun; and “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s 10th movie, with Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray and Timothée Chalamet, among other stars. The Searchlight film shot in Augouleme, France, and is set at an outpost of an American newspaper called The French Dispatch in a fictional 20th-century French city, which brings to life a collection of stories.

Although the competition includes many regulars and well-known directors that were expected to turn up in the lineup, others are surprises, for instance “Nitram” by Australian helmer Justin Kurzel; “Casablanca Beats,” by Moroccan filmmaker-producer Nabil Ayouch (“Much Loved”); or “Lingui,” from Chad-born director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. Three Israeli films will be showcased in the Official Selection, including Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee,” a thought-provoking drama, which will play in competition.

If France’s reopening occurs as expected, “You will be able to fill the room 100%,” Frémaux explained, though safety precautions will still be in effect. Starting on July 1, the cap on audience capacity in all cultural venues will be removed. The mask, however, will be mandatory inside auditoriums, though it may not be on the red carpet by early July.

Rather than shrinking this year’s lineup, as so many other festivals have, Frémaux added a new section called Cannes Premiere, designed to give returning Cannes auteurs a safe place to screen new work outside of the competition in the prestigious Debussy theater. He described this new segment of the program as “films that could have been a part of the official competition,” adding, “We didn’t want them to screen anywhere else.”

2021 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP

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Annette Courtesy Amazon

COMPETITION

“Ahed’s Knee” OR “Ha’berech,” Nadav Lapid (Israel)

“Annette,” Leos Carax (France) — OPENING FILM

“Benedetta,” Paul Verhoeven (Netherlands)

“Bergman Island,” Mia Hansen-Løve (France)

“Casablanca Beats,” Nabil Ayouch (Morocco)

“Compartment No. 6” OR “Hytti Nro 6,” Juho Kuosmanen (Finland)

“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (France)

“Everything Went Fine” OR “Tout s’est bien passé,” Francois Ozon (France)

“Flag Day,” Sean Penn (U.S.)

“France,” Bruno Dumont (France)

“The French Dispatch,” Wes Anderson (U.S.)

“A Hero,” Asghar Farhadi (Iran)

“La fracture,” Catherine Corsini (France)

“Lingui,” Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad)

“Memoria,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)

“Nitram,” Justin Kurzel (Australia)

“Paris, 13th District” OR “Les Olympiades,” Jacques Audiard (France)

“Petrov’s Flu,” Kirill Serebrennikov (Russia)

“Red Rocket,” Sean Baker (U.S.)

“The Restless” OR “Les Intranquilles,” Joachim Lafosse (Belgium)

“The Story of My Wife,” Ildikó Enyedi (Hungary)

“Three Floors” OR “Tre Piani,” Nanni Moretti (Italy)

“Titane,” Julia Ducournau (France)

“The Worst Person in the World,” Joachim Trier (Norway)

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Memoria

UN CERTAIN REGARD

“After Yang,” Kogonada (U.S.)

“Blue Bayou,” Justin Chon (U.S.)

“Bonne Mère,” Hafsia Herzi (France)

“Commitment Hasan,” Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu (Turkey)

“Freda,” Gessica Généus (Haiti)

“Gaey Wa’r,” Na Jiazuo (China)

“Great Freedom,” Sebastian Meise (Austria)

“House Arrest” OR “Delo,” Alexey German Jr. (Russia)

“The Innocents,” Eskil Vogt (Norway)

“La Civil,” Teodora Ana Mihai (Romania-Belgium)

“Lamb,” Valdimar Jóhansson (Iceland)

“Let There Be Morning,” Eran Kolirin (Israel)

“Moneyboys,“ C.B. Yi (Austria)

“Noche de Fuego,” Tatiana Huezo (Mexico)

“Rehana Maryam Noor,” Abdullah Mohammad Saad (Bangladesh)

“Unclenching the Fists,” Kira Kovalenko (Russia)

“Un Monde,” Laura Wandel (Belgium)

“Women Do Cry,” Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova (Bulgaria)

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Un Monde Courtesy of Dragons Films

OUT OF COMPETITION

“Aline, the Voice of Love,” Valerie Lemercier (France)

“Bac Nord,” Cédric Jimenez (France)

“Emergency Declaration,” Han Jae-Rim (S. Korea

“Peaceful” OR “De son vivant,” Emmanuelle Bercot (France)

“Stillwater,” Tom McCarthy (U.S.)

“The Velvet Underground,” Todd Haynes (U.S.)

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Stillwater Jessica Forde/Focus Features

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

“Bloody Oranges,” Jean-Christophe Meurisse (France)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

“Babi Yar. Context,” Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine)

“Black Notebooks,” Shlomi Elkabetz (Israel)

“H6,” Yé Yé (France)

“Mariner of the Mountains” OR “O Marinheiro das Montanhas,” Karim Aïnouz (Brazil)

“The Year of the Everlasting Storm,” Jafar Panahi (Iran), Anthony Chen (Singapore), Malik Vitthal (U.S.), Laura Poitras (U.S.), Dominga Sotomayor (Chile), David Lowery (U.S.) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)

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The Year of the Everlasting Storm Courtesy of Neon

CANNES PREMIERE

“Cow,” Andrea Arnold (U.K.)

“Deception” OR “Tromperie,” Arnaud Desplechin (France)

“Evolution,” Kornél Mundruczo (Hungary)

“Hold Me Tight,” Mathieu Amalric (France)

“In Front of Your Face,” Hong Sang-soo (S. Korea)

“Jane by Charlotte,” Charlotte Gainsbourg (France)

“JFK Revisted: Through the Looking Glass,” Oliver Stone (U.S.)

“Love Songs for Tough Guys,” Samuel Benchetrit (France)

“Mothering Sunday,” Eva Husson (France)

“Val,” Ting Poo and Leo Scott (U.S.)