The good news this time is that four women-directed films are in the competition.
The 72nd Cannes film festival will open next month with a zombie movie reflecting the uncertain times we live in. American independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s genre film The Dead Don’t Die will kick off the festival in the French Riviera town on May 14. Part of the official competition for the prestigious Palme d’Or, the movie is about a sleepy town suddenly waking up to find its dead rising from the graves to feast on the living.
Jarmusch, who brought the vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive to Cannes in 2013, assembles a cast of Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez and Iggy Pop in his 13th feature film. Having won the Short Film Palme d’Or for Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California in 1993 and the Camera d’Or for the first feature film of a director for Stranger Than Paradise in 1984, the director-screenwriter will be aiming for the top honour this year.
At a news conference in Paris on April 18, Cannes festival president Pierre Lescure and general delegate Thierry Fremaux unveiled 19 films from around the world in the competition section. The illustrious field includes Spanish director Pedro Almodovar with his new film Pain and Glory, the story of an ageing filmmaker. The list also has two-time Palme d’or-winning Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, who will be presenting Young Ahmed, about a radicalised Muslim boy.
The long wait for an Indian film in the competition still continues a quarter-century after Malayalam director Shaji N Karun’s Swaham, which vied for the Palme d’Or in 2014. The good news this time is that four women-directed films are in the competition. These female filmmakers are Austrian Jessica Hausner, American Ira Sachs, French Celine Sciamma and Senegalese Mati Diop. The main competition had three female filmmakers last year.
“There are 13 female directors in the official selection this year,” says Fremaux. Un Certain Regard section of the fest, which showcases new trends in world cinema, has seven women directors— Canadian Monia Chokri, Americans Annie Silverstein and Danielle Lessovitz, Algerian Mounia Meddour, Moroccan Maryam Touzani and French filmmakers Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec. The special screenings section has American director Pippa Bianco’s Share, a feature-length adaptation of her short film with the same title. The list of women directors also has Syrian filmmaker Waad Al Kateab, who has co-directed the documentary Sama.
The highlight of the red carpet this year will be singer Elton John and football great Diego Maradona. English actor-director Dexter Fletcher’s biopic on Elton John, Rocketman, is part of the out-of-competition section. “Elton John will be present,” beams Fremaux. “We will put a hidden piano backstage if he wants to play something for us.” Indian-origin British filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s biopic on Maradona, Diego Maradona, is finally ready and will also be screened in the out-of-competition section.
Both Lescure and Fremaux have once again ruled out the selection of Netflix films. “Three years ago, we selected two Netflix films—Okja and Meyerowitz Stories—one a Netflix production and the other a Netflix acquisition. Netflix has a business model, which means the films won’t be released in theatres. The rule (of Cannes festival) is that for the competition, a film must be released in theatres,” explains Fremaux. “We are not ready to select films that won’t be seen by audiences in theatres,” adds Lescure. There were no Netflix films in Cannes last year.
The competition jury will be headed by Oscar-winning Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu. “It is very rare for Iñárritu to agree to be on a jury, and this is the first time that the Festival de Cannes Jury is to be chaired by a Mexican artist,” says Lescure. The festival will run up to May 25.
The author is a freelancer