This year, there will be no Indian movie at the Cannes Film Festival – opening on May 14. At least, so it seems going by the announcement made by the Festival chief, Thierry Fremaux, in Paris on Thursday. In the past few years, he had left till the end a few slots open in the 12-day Festival's various sections – Competition, Out Of Competition, A Certain Regard, Special Screenings and Midnight Screenings. But it is unlikely that an Indian movie would be chosen now.
Last year, the highly anticipated Manto by Nandita Das was part of A Certain Regard. Highly anticipated – I would say, because Das ran an effective campaign to ensure that her work, a kind of fictionalised biopic on the celebrated Pakistani writer and poet, Sadat Hassan Manto (whose works were honest, brutal and provocative), caught the eye of Cannes selectors.
A year earlier, she flew down to Cannes, screened clips from her film, invited journalists and others. Also, Das has been a familiar face at the French Riviera. She had been on the jury twice, once on the main Competition panel.
However, all this is not to even remotely imply that Manto did not qualify to be part of Cannes. Aishwarya Rai has been a permanent fixture there. She has been the face of L Oreal, and had, like Das, served on the main Competition jury. But, if my memory serves me right, there was just one movie of hers, Devdas, which played at Cannes 2002, and I remember Fremaux came in for a lot of flak for having picked this film.
So, one must have a work of substance to hope for a Cannes slot.
Manto turned out to be a gripping piece of narration, and was apt for the kind of times we all live in today. The movie spoke about intolerance, more specifically religious intolerance, and how writers were harassed only because they spoke what they saw. Manto faced several legal cases that charged him with writing obscene essays. The period was India's Partition days, when there was growing animosity between people – divided by an artificial border, something we have been seeing ever since the world over. So, well, this May India will have blank slate to show at Cannes!
But the nation, which produces almost 2000 films a year, can console itself by the fact that there were other highly expected titles which did not make the cut. The Truth from Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda – who won last year's Palm dÓr for his brilliant work, Shoplifters, is not part of Cannes 2019. It is said that the director wanted his movie to open the Festival, and this may have been the reason for the film not being selected. The Truth is the Kore-eda's first feature shot outside Japan. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. The movie will now most likely travel to Venice at the end of August.
Also, a whole lot of Netflix titles, will like last year, skip Cannes this May, because Fremaux has not been able to work out a compromise between the streaming giant and French distributors/exhibitors, who are insisting on a theatrical release before a web outing. So, some great fare like Martin Scorsese's epic The Irishman, Meryl Streep starrer The Laundromat from Steven Soderbergh (who shot to fame after his Sex, Lies and Videotape many years ago) and Noah Baumbach's period drama The King will not be at Cannes, and what a pity. Let us not forget, a work of such splendid beauty and power like Roma (from Netflix) went to Venice because Cannes kept it out.
Another hot title, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio on the horrific murder of a heavily pregnant Sharon Tate (wife of Roman Polanski) may not be arriving on the Croisette (Cannes beach front), because as Fremaux said the “post-production on the film, which Tarantino shot in traditional 35 mm, has been particularly time-consuming and he was in a sprint to finish it in time for its scheduled release this summer”. But Mr Tarantino – known for some great cinema and remembered for his controversial decision as the President of the Cannes jury in 2004 to award the Palm dÓr to Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 (which panned President Bush) – might just about reach the finishing line before May 14 to get his work into Cannes.
Here is the list of movies that will be screened at Cannes this May. Some additions can follow in the coming days.
Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodovar
The Traitor, Marco Bellocchio
Wild Goose Lake, Yinan Diao
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho
Young Ahmed, The Dardenne Brothers
Oh Mercy!, Arnaud Desplechin
Atlantique, Mati Diop
Matthias and Maxime, Xavier Dolan
Little Joe, Jessica Hausner
Sorry We Missed You, Ken Loach
Les Miserables, Ladj Ly
A Hidden Life (previously known as Radegund), Terrence Malik
Nighthawk, Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles
The Whistlers, Corneliu Porumboiu
Frankie, Ira Sachs
The Dead Don't Die, Jim Jarmusch
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Celine Sciamma
It Must Be Heaven, Elia Suleiman
Sybil, Justine Triet
Out of Competition:
Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher
The Best Years of Life, Claude Lelouch
Maradona, Asif Kapadia
La Belle Epoque, Nicolas Bedos
Too Old to Die Young, Nicolas Winding Refn (TV series screening 2 episodes)
Share, Pippa Bianco
Family Romance LLC, Werner Herzog
Tommaso, Abel Ferrara
To Be Alive and Know It, Alain Cavalier
For Sama, Waad Al Kateab and Edward Watts
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, Lee Won-Tae
Un Certain Regard:
Invisible Life, Karim Aïnouz
Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov
The Swallows of Kabul, Zabou Breitman & Eléa Gobé Mévellec
A Brother’s Love, Monia Chokri
The Climb, Michael Covino
Joan of Arc, Bruno Dumont
A Sun That Never Sets, Olivier Laxe
Chambre 212, Christophe Honoré
Port Authority, Danielle Lessovitz
Papicha, Mounia Meddour
Adam, Maryam Touzani
Zhuo Ren Mi Mi, Midi Z
Liberte, Albert Serra
Bull, Annie Silverstein
Summer of Changsha, Zu Feng
EVGE, Nariman Aliev
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered Cannes for 28 years)