Indian actress-director Nandita Das has made it to the Cannes Film Festival with her Manto, a kind of biographical sketch of the radical Pakistani thinker and writer, Sadat Hasan Manto. This will be her second movie after the 2008 Firaaq – a political thriller set a month after the terrible 2002 Gujarat riots in which thousands were butchered by marauding mobs.
Das's Manto will be part of the Festival's official line – which was announced in Paris a while ago by the General-Delegate, Thierry Fremaux.
Das had introduced Manto at Cannes last year with a short trailer. It stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role along with Rasika Duggal as the writer's wife. Ismat Chughat, Manto's friend, and another radical thinker, will be essayed by Rajshri Deshpande. Rishi Kapoor has a minor part, and Tahir Raj Bhasin will be seen as the 1940's Bollywood superstar, Shyam Chaddha – who was Manto's confidant and inspiration for a number of stories he penned.
Manto will be part of A Certain Regard, which is usually a canvas for experimentally bold features.
Incidentally, Indian has not made it to Cannes Competition in many, many years.
In the all-important Competition, the American big name, Spike Lee, will present his BlacKKKlansman, and Iran's enfant terrible Jafar Panahi his Three Faces.
At the moment, Panahi is under some sort of house arrest in Tehran, and is facing a 20-year ban on making movies. However, he has refused to be cowed down making films on the sly. His Taxi, which won the Golden Bear at Berlin a couple of years ago, was a bold venture by Panahi who disguised himself as a cabbie, drove down the streets of Tehran, picked passengers, recorded their conversations with a small camera placed on the dashboard and made a movie out of all these.
Fremaux told the Press conference that the Festival would write to the Iranian authorities to allow Panahi to travel to Cannes and present his film. Some years ago, Cannes had placed an empty chair on the podium to assert its displeasure at what was happening to Panahi. He was to have served on the Cannes jury that year, if my memory serves me right.
As already written in these columns, Asghar Farhadi's (also from Iran) Spanish work, Everybody Knows – starring that delightfully brilliant acting husband-wife duo, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, will get the Festival on the French Riviera rolling on the evening of May 8. The 12-day Festival, often called the Queen of All, will end on May 19.
Here is the lineup – as of now – because Cannes will add a few more names before it opens.
* Everbody Knows, Asghar Farhadi (opening film)
* En Guerre (At War), Stéphane Brizé
* Dogman, Matteo Garrone
* Le Livre D’image, Jean-Luc Godard
* Netemo Sametemo (Asako I & Ii), Ryusuke Hamaguchi
* Plaire Aimer Et Courir Vite (Sorry Angel), Christophe Honoré
* Les Filles Du Soleil (Girls Of The Sun), Eva Husson
* Ash Is Purest White, Jia Zhang-Ke
* Shoplifters, Kore-Eda Hirokazu
* Capharnaüm (Capernaum), Nadine Labaki
* Buh-Ning (Burning), Lee Chang-Dong
* Blackkklansman, Spike Lee
* Under The Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell
* 3 Faces, Jafar Panahi
* Zimna Wojna (Cold War), Pawel Pawlikowski
* Lazzaro Felice, Alice Rohrwacher
* Yomeddine, A.B Shawky
* Leto (L’été), Kirill Serebrennikov
Out Of Competition:
* Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ron Howard
* Le Grand Bain, Gilles Lellouche
Un Certain Regard
* Border, Ali Abassi
* Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan
* Manto, Nandita Das
* Girl, Lukas Dhont
* Gueule D’ange (Angel Face), Vanessa Filho
* Euphoria, Valeria Golino
* Rafiki (Friend), Wanuri Kahiu
* Mon Tissu Préféré (My Favorite Fabric), Gaya Jiji
* Die Stropers (The Harvesters), Etienne Kallos
* In My Room, Ulrich Köhler
* El Angel, Luis Ortega
* The Gentle Indifference Of The World, Adilkhan Yerzhanov
* À Genoux Les Gars (Sextape), Antoine Desrosières
* Ten Years In Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
* The State Against Mandela And The Others, Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte
* O Grande Circo Místico (Le Grand Cirque Mystique), Carlo Diegues
* Les Âmes Mortes (Dead Souls), Wang Bing
* À Tous Vents (To The Four Winds), Michel Toesca
* La Traversée, Romain Goupil
* Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, Wim Wenders
* Arctic, Joe Penna
* Gongjak (The Spy Gone North), Yoon Jong-Bing
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered Cannes Film Festival for 28 years, and may be e-mailed at email@example.com)