In this first blog of two, we highlight some of our favourite titles from this year’s 75th Cannes Film Festival, including new work by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kelly Reichardt, Mia Hansen-Løve and more.
David Williams, Film Hub South East Coordinator
Broker (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Shoplifters director Hirokazu Kore-eda builds on the themes explored in his Palme d’Or-winning effort with the uniquely intimate melodrama Broker.
Following a desperate mother who abandons her son in a baby box, the men who try to sell the child, and the police following them, this found family tragicomedy stars Song Kang-ho (Parasite, Memories of Murder) in a role that led him to a Best Actor prize at this year’s festival. Song shares the screen with Bae Doona — familiar to audiences from her work with Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-Wook and The Wachowskis — and K-Pop star IU.
The charismatic cast of criminals find themselves on a road trip, and the film is at its most enjoyable when spending time with the mismatched characters bonding through their common goal despite their disparate motivations and clashing personalities. Hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Broker is not to be missed.
Duncan Carson, Projects and Business Manager
Leila’s Brothers (dir. Saeed Roustayi)
At any other time of year, I find the discourse around running times fairly farcical. I have seen 75 minute films that seem drawn out; and three hour films that pass in the blink of an eye. But at Cannes, plumping for a nearly three hour film runs the risk of spinning your day off-axis, putting you out of whack with the rest of the day’s packed programme of films.
So it says a lot that Iran’s Leila’s Brothers not only justifies missing that all important mid-morning screening, but doesn’t feel a minute of its 2 and 3/4 hour running time. A ripe family drama, Saeed Roystayi’s third feature serves up enough for an Eastenders omnibus, while never reaching for contrivance. Leila (Tarane Alidousti, who has appeared in several Ashgar Farhadi titles) is the centre of her family, though without any of the opportunities that should be offered her. Her middling brothers – through either misfortune, oppression or self-sabotage – all require her dotage. The opportunity to buy a shop in an up-and-coming mall presents itself to them, with the majority of the film given over to the vicissitudes of their attempts to secure enough capital to realise the dream. With humour that wrings from the extremely human situation, this is a far funnier film than much of contemporary Iranian cinema. For me, it recalled Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, the rare film able to draw together all of the threads of a large family, offering intimate glimpses of its dishonesties and silences, as well as its moments of intimacy and joy.
While the runtime poses a challenge for its theatrical release, Iranian cinema – especially one that offers so much meaty drama – has a fair life in UK cinemas, and festival play should be guaranteed. Political in the best sense – in as much as it shows what ‘politics’ means to people’s actual lives – Leila’s Brothers is like a family reunion you won’t dread attending.
The Dam (dir. Ali Cherri)
Having visited many of the ancient Nubian sites in Northern Sudan that it makes its setting earlier this year, The Dam had one over on me before sitting down. But even for those who haven’t stood in the shade of Jebel Barkal’s cobra-headed mountain, there is plenty to make this a strong contender for festival play. The debut feature from Lebanese director Ali Cherri is set during the early days of Sudan’s 2019 revolution, yet takes a step back from the clashes of Khartoum. Maher (first-timer Maher El Khair) is a brick-maker, toiling by day for an unscrupulous boss. In his off-hours, he is constructing a strange monument. To what, for what and why it speaks gnomic nothings to him is never finally answered, but the whole film bubbles with how a revolution happens for most people: not in the streets, but as a distant reality. Beautifully shot and dripping with symbolism, this is another great film from Sudan, sitting nicely alongside recent UK release You Will Die at Twenty.
Ashkal (dir. Youssef Chebbi)
Another film that takes a complex look at the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s Ashkal is set in the swaying rebar and concrete foundations of a luxury housing development in progress. Begun pre-revolution, its backers were deposed with revolutionary zeal, only for it to be remounted a decade later as old currents begin to flow again. Ashkal has a cynical, noir-ish take on the potential of revolutionary change and how it can quickly founder. Detectives Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) and Bafal (Mohamed Grayaâ) are investigating the deaths by immolation of marginal people in the shadow of the development. Fatma is a pariah on the force, her father leading the truth and reconciliation committee over the events of the revolution. Bafal is trying to come to terms with his own brutal participation in repressing the revolution. However, what begins in police procedural territory then transmutes into something far more supernatural and metaphorical. Not a million miles from Egypt’s The Nile Hilton Incident, this is well measured cinema that mines a real sense of place to create something unexpected.
Isabel Moir, Film Programmer
Showing Up (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
Showing Up sees director Kelly Reichardt reunite with long-term collaborator Michelle Williams, and as a huge fan of both Reichardt and Williams this was one of my most anticipated titles in this year’s competition. This is the fourth film on which they have partnered, the others including the much-celebrated Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff and Certain Women.
Showing Up intimately captures the everyday life of a sculptor named Lizzy (Williams), who we closely observe preparing for her upcoming exhibition. Similar to Reichardt’s previous work, this film takes place in Portland, in the midst of an artist community, at an art school where Lizzy also works in the administration office. The world Reichardt creates feels authentic and lived in, as we often observe students creating work and showcasing the different artistic disciplines taking place in the classrooms – perhaps not too dissimilar to Reichardt’s experience at Bard College where she teaches when not directing.
I feel Showing Up is Reichardt’s most playful and humorous film to date, as we view the interactions and frequent distractions that keep Lizzy from work – whether that is her adorable cat always seeking attention, her landlord’s reluctance to fix her hot water or a wounded pigeon she has been roped into nursing. Although Lizzy is clearly talented, what I find most fascinating is how the film is more interested in exploring how to balance creativity with paid employment and the importance of finding the space to create when you have various commitments in life, as well as looking at how life intersects with art. Williams is wonderfully cast as Lizzy, perfectly capturing her frustrations and at times, prickly demeanour, as she tries to focus on her work. She is also joined by enjoyable supporting performances by John Magaro from Reichardt’s last work First Cow, Hong Chau and André Benjamin. Showing Up is another subtle and nuanced observation which beautifully compliments Reichardt’s previous films as a director masterfully in control of her own craft.
Showing Up is an A24 production, however it has not yet been announced whether they will handle UK distribution.
Nicole Davis, BFI NETWORK Talent Executive
One Fine Morning (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)
I love to love Løve. Arguably one of the most consistent, and definitely one of the most contemplative directors working today, Mia Hansen-Løve embellishes her oeuvre of quietly poignant, yet hopeful character studies with this Paris-set drama about a single mother (Lea Seydoux) who begins an affair while simultaneously caring for her ailing father. As we’ve come to expect from the philosophically-minded French filmmaker, One Fine Morning is filled with considerations on how we love, how we live, how we remember and how we let go. And despite the current of loss that ripples throughout, there are moments of sheer joy and sensuality, because such is life.
Close (dir. Lukas Dhont)
In the vein of Carla Simon’s Summer 1993, which similarly took a magnifying glass to the spectacle of childhood grief, this sophomore feature from Belgium’s Lukas Dhont, is a shattering exploration of the unique intensity of adolescent friendship. I knew very little going into the film, other than MUBI had acquired it for the UK, and would recommend the same approach for when they release it. Just expect to have a lot of feelings and find yourself awed by the lived-in performances given by the two young leads, Gustave De Waele and Eden Dambrine.
Thanks for reading this blog. You can read Part Two here.
Header image: The Dam (dir. Ali Cherri). Courtesy of Indie Sales.