One must hail the Cannes Film chief, Festival Thierry Fremaux, for his remarkable resilience to get the event up and running – albeit not in the shape and form I and most of us have been used to for decades. With Coronavirus pandemic playing spoilsport, the festival will not take place in the French Riviera. But the 56 movies which Fremaux and his team picked from 2067 titles that were submitted by Cannes faithfuls and the newest of aspirants will be screened at different festivals, like-- Busan, Deauville, Toronto, San Sebastian, New York, Telluride, Morelia, Sundance and Fremaux's own Lumiere in Lyon.
Unfortunately, despite great expectation, Venice will not partner with Cannes as I learn that the Lido (the island where Venice takes place)event, could not come to an agreement.
The Cannes 2020 selections were announced through Canal Plus instead of the usually crowded auditorium in Paris where journalists and photographers had to virtually rub shoulders. With social distancing a reality, this was impossible this year.
However, what will be remembered for a long is Fremaux's determination to not just put his Festival together, but also refrain from going digital. He has been a great advocate of the big screen. He has always contended that the digital platform has its place and importance, but can never replace the cinema and its magic and grandeur.
This year, the 56 films have not been categorised under different heads like Competition, Out Of Competition, A Certain Regard, Midnight Screenings and Special Screenings. And, what is perhaps even more disappointing is the suspense and excitement leading up to the awards ceremony when the Palm dÓr is announced. It will be sorely missed. As one writer quipped. “This was the phantom announcement of the phantom Cannes. A cancelled Christmas when all we got in our stocking was a list of the presents we are not getting”.
Yet again, I do not see an Indian work among the selections. Disappointing, but not totally unexpected, given the quality of cinema that India continues to place on its conveyor belt, obsessed as it is with sheer numbers and little else.
Each of the 56 titles would bear the Cannes 2020 stamp, although we would never know how they will fare in the months to come. Will they shine or just vanish without a trace?
Now for the movies. Wes Anderson, Kate Winslet and Steve McQueen are the most prominent names in the Cannes list. Anderson’s The French Dispatch has been touted as “a love letter to journalists”. It is set in a Parisian office of a publication styled on The New Yorker, and has Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Benicio del Toro in the cast.
McQueen's has two features – Lovers Rock and Mangrove – explores the history of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. The work dramatises the real-life case of Mangrove 9 in 1970 about police racial brutality in London. Timely, given what we are seeing in the US today. Lovers Rock is a romance set in the 1980s.
McQueen said in a statement: “I dedicate these films to George Floyd and all the other black people that have been murdered, seen or unseen, because of who they are, in the US, UK and elsewhere. ‘If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.’ Black Lives Matter.”
Though Hollywood is noticeably absent from the Cannes list with studios preferring to wait out the pandemic, the Festival was able to clinch the Kate Winslet starrer, Ammonite, helmed by British movie-maker Francis Lee. Ammonite centres on real-life fossil hunter Mary Anning (played by Winslet) who lived in Lyme Regis in the early 19th century and had a lesbian relationship with a wealthy married woman.
Debutant British director Ben Sharrock gets a Cannes listing for his Limbo, a drama about refugees waiting to be granted asylum on a Scottish island.
Cannes is also going to look very French this season with many helmers in the list, the most prominent among them being Francois Ozon with his Summer of 85, a tense teen drama (Remember his Swimming Pool?).
We also have new animated work from Pixar, Soul, directed by Pete Docter that features Jamie Foxx as a jazz musician whose soul separates from his body, while Falling, the directorial debut of Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortensen, has been added to the line-up. Aya And The Witch from Goro Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, is based on the novel Earwig and the Witch, by the British author Diana Wynne Jones (who wrote Howl’s Moving Castle, the source for another iconic Ghibli gem).
This time, Cannes will have 16 women directors, compared with 14 last year and 11 in 2018. Fremaux had come in for a lot of criticism because many felt that the Festival was under-representing female helmers. He said: “The 16 women auteurs represented an evolution observed for several years...It testifies, in number and in value, to the artistic and human contribution of women in contemporary cinema.” Among the crop of female directors for 2020 are Maïwenn, Charlène Favier and Naomi Kawase (a Cannes regular from Japan).
Full list of films
The French Dispatch (dir: Wes Anderson)
Summer of ’85 (dir: François Ozon)
True Mothers (Naomi Kawase)
Mangrove and Lovers Rock (dir: Steve McQueen)
Druk (dir: Thomas Vinterberg)
DNA (dir: Maïwenn)
Last Words (dir: Jonathan Nossiter)
Heaven (dir: Im Sang-soo)
El Olvido que Seremos (dir: Fernando Trueba)
Peninsula (dir: Sang-ho Yeon)
In the Dusk (dir: Sharunas Bartas)
Des Hommes (dir: Lucas Belvaux)
The Real Thing (dir: Koji Fukada)
Passion Simple (dir: Danielle Arbid)
Good Man (dir: Marie-Castille Mention Schaar)
The Things We Say, The Things We Do (dir: Emmanuel Mouret)
Souad (dir: Ayten Amin)
Limbo (dir: Ben Sharrock)
Rouge (dir: Farid Bentoumi)
Sweat (dir: Magnus von Horn)
Teddy (dir: Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma)
February (dir: Kamen Kalev)
Ammonite (dir: Francis Lee)
Un Médecin de Nuit (Elie Wajeman)
Enfant Terrible (dir: Oskar Roehler)
Nadia, Butterfly (dir: Pascal Plante)
Here We Are (dir: Nir Bergman)
Septet: The Story of Hong Kong (dirs: Ann Hui, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Woo-Ping Yuen)
Falling (dir: Viggo Mortensen)
Pleasure (dir: Ninja Thyberg)
Slalom (dir: Charlène Favier)
Memory House (dir: João Paulo Miranda Maria)
Broken Keys (dir: Jimmy Keyrouz)
Ibrahim (dir: Samuel Gueismi)
Beginning (dir: Déa Kulumbegashvili)
Gagarine (dirs: Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh)
16 Printemps (dir: Suzanne Lindon)
Vaurien (Peter Dourountzis)
Garçon Chiffon (dir: Nicolas Maury)
Si Le Vent Tombe (dir: Nora Martirosyan)
John and the Hole (dir: Pascual Sisto)
Striding into the Wind (dir: Wei Shujun)
La Mort du Cinema et de Mon Père Aussi (dir: Daniel Rosenberg)
The Billion Road (dir: Dieudo Hamadi)
The Truffle Hunters (dir: Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw)
9 Days at Raqqa (dir: Xavier de Lauzanne)
Antoinette dans les Cévennes (dir: Caroline Vignal)
Les Deux Alfred (dir: Bruno Podalydès)
Un Triomphe (dir: Emmanuel Courcol)
Le Discours (dir: Laurent Tirard)
L’Origine du Monde (dir: Laurent Lafitte)
Aya and the Witch (dir: Goro Miyazaki)
Flee (dir: Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
Josep (dir: Aurel)
Soul (dir: Pete Docter)
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