After a minor delay due to protests from entertainment industry workers, artistic director Thierry Fremaux fronted the press Thursday evening to introduce the 69th Cannes Film Festival’s 2016 Official Selection to the world, including the twenty films that will compete for the coveted Palme d’Or. Unveiled at length in Fremaux’s now-familiar frenzy of redundant name-dropping and excess (often nonsensical — “the Loach film is very Loachian, the Jarmusch is very Jarmuschian”) explanation, the selection brings together heavy-hitters and obscurities from 28 countries around the world.
Yet again, the festival will not evade criticism for its historically gender-imbalanced selection, with only three films in the 2016 competition slate directed by women (one more than last year), two in the Un Certain Regard sidebar (the lowest since 2012), and one Out of Competition. All of the female directors whose films have been included in the Official Selection are white. The only instance within the last decade of more than three female directors being included in the competition line-up was 2011, when there were four. Considering the festival have first pick of the film world’s crop and received a record 1,869 submissions this year, this low number seems almost unfathomable, although wider iniquities throughout the global film industries do account for much of the suppression of female talent.
To the frustration of some, Woody Allen will open Cannes for the third time with Cafe Society, a romantic comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. He’s joined Out of Competition by Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys and Na Hong-Jin’s Goksung, one of three South Korean selections, alongside Yong Sang-Ho’s Train to Busan, a midnight screening, and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaid (Agassi) in the main competition.
The competition slate is packed with heavyweights, including Pedro Almodovar’s return to female-centric narrative with Julieta; Jeff Nichol’s Loving, an interracial romance starring Australia’s Joel Edgerton (our only contribution to the festival thus far); and Sean Penn’s The Last Face, with Charlize Theron. Jim Jarmusch will premiere two new films at Cannes, including comp entry Paterson (the other is an Iggy Pop documentary titled Gimme Danger, which will show at a midnight screening).
Two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will premiere La Fille Inconnue, their seventh film in competition. Other competition veterans include Ken Loach, who returns from a very short retirement with I, Daniel Blake; Nicolas Winding Refn with English-language The Neon Demon; Olivier Assayas with his second Kristen Stewart collaboration in Personal Shopper; and Paul Verhoeven, whose last time competing at the croisette was in 1992 with Basic Instinct, with Isabelle Huppert starrer Elles. Andrea Arnold and Xavier Dolan will both return to Cannes for their second films in competition, American Honey and It’s Only the End of the World, respectively.
To many, the most delightfully surprising competition inclusion is Toni Erdemann, from German director Maren Ade, whose Everyone Else was a sleeper hit at 2009’s Berlinale. Her latest, going by a tweet-sized synopsis provided by the Austrian Film Commission, is about an unexpected reunion and reconciliation between a working woman and her distant father.
Un Certain Regard is, as it should be, home to a field of relative outsiders, most of whom are comparatively unknown to the film establishment. Hirokazu Kore-eda is the heavy-hitter of the group, returning to Cannes after last year’s competition entry Our Little Sister in what some see as a demotion of sorts. Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic, which failed to cause a stir at Sundance in January, was a surprise inclusion, with many predicting that it was a ploy to get star Viggo Mortenson, a Cannes favourite, to attend the festival.
Elsewhere, the Special Screenings sidebar contains two of Cannes’ most interesting selections: Rithy Pahn’s The Missing Picture follow-up Exil, another rumination on post-genocide Cambodia, and Albert Serra’s The Last Days of Louis XIV, which stars a now-72 year old Jean-Pierre Leaud as the Sun King in his final days.
Surprisingly absent from the line-up are Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, Chile’s Pablo Larrain, Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel and Japan’s Kyoshi Kurosawa, whose films were reportedly incomplete at the festival’s selection deadline. Already ruled out was Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which is still being edited but which will receive a nationwide release later this year.
Controversially, Bertrand Bonello and Marco Bellocchio’s films have not been included in the 2016 selection, allegedly due to personal conflicts between the filmmakers and Fremeaux. Take that speculation with a grain of salt, and expect Bonello and Bellocchio to turn up elsewhere on the major festival calendar.
The full jury, which will be presided over by Australia’s own George Miller, will be unveiled next week, along with the lineup of the independent Director’s Fortnight sidebar on April 19. Whilst most Australian’s aren’t afforded the luxury of attending Cannes, speculation has already begun as to which films will make the journey to Australia for the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals. SFF director Nashen Moodley usually has time to make a few swift selections for the June festival, whereas MIFF’s Michelle Carey has ample breathing room to bring a more complete slate of Cannes titles to Melbourne in July and August. The Cannes Film Festival runs May 11-22.
Official Selection for the 69th Cannes International Film Festival
Cafe Society, director: Woody Allen (out of competition)
American Honey, director: Andrea Arnold
Aquarius, director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Daniel Blake, director: Ken Loach
Elle, director: Paul Verhoeven
Family Photos, director: Cristian Mungiu
From the Land of the Moon, director: Nicole Garcia
It’s Only the End of the World, director: Xavier Dolan
Julieta, director: Pedro Almodovar
Loving, director: Jeff Nichols
Ma Rosa, director: Brillante Mendoza
Paterson, director: Jim Jarmusch
Personal Shopper, director: Olivier Assayas
Sieranevada, director: Cristi Puiu
Slack Bay, director: Bruno Dumond
Staying Vertical, director: Alain Guiraudie
The Handmaid, director: Park Chan Wook
The Last Face, director: Sean Penn
The Neon Demon, director: Nicholas Winding Refn
The Unknown Girl, directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Toni Erdmann, director: Marie Ade
Un Certain Regard
Apprentice, director: Junfeng Boo
After The Storm, director: Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Beyond the Mountains and Hills, director: Eran Kolirin
Captain Fantastic, director: Matt Ross
Clash, director: Mohamed Diab
Dogs, director: Bogdan Mirica
Francisco Sanctis’s Long Night, directors: Francisco Marquez, Andrea Testa
Harmonium, director: Koji Fukada
Inversion, director: Behnam Behzadi
Pericle Il Nero, director: Stefano Mordini
Personal Affairs, director: Maha Haj
Red Turtle, director: Michael Dudok de Wit
The Dancer, director: Stéphanie di Giusto
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, director: Juho Kuosmanen
The Stopover, directors: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
The Student, director: Kirill Serebrennikov
The Transfiguration, director: Michael O’Shea
Exil, director: Rithy Panh
Hissein Habre, a Chadian Tragedy, director: Mahamet-Saleh Haroun
The Cancer, director: Paul Vecchiali
The Last Days of Louis XIV, director: Albert Serra
The Last Resort, directors: Thanos Anastopoulos, Davide del Degan
Gimme Danger, director: Jim Jarmusch
Train to Busan, director: Yeon Sang-Ho
Out of Competition
Goksung, director: Na Hong-Jin
The Nice Guys, director: Shane Black
The BFG, director: Steven Spielberg
Money Monster, director: Jodie Foster