Cannes 2015: Catharine's Blog

Posted on May 24, 2015 by Catharine Des Forges

Categories: Festival Reports

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Sunday 17th May

Amazingly there’s no-one I know on the plane.  It might be something to do with the unseasonably early hour of 7AM but it does mean I arrive in Cannes in time to get slightly orientated. I meet my trusty colleague Simon for our annual pan-bagnat lunch stop, a bargain 4 Euros, to catch up. If you are doing Cannes on a budget, it could keep you going for a couple of days. I seem to have one ticket in the new lottery system so things have started well… Today I’m going to the Europa Cinemas network meeting which takes place every year in Cannes. Many of the ICO cinemas are members of Europa Cinemas and we operate a mini-network for some smaller cinemas in the UK who are not big enough to apply on their own. It’s funded by Creative Europe and subsidises the exhibition of European films in cinemas across Europe, as well as delivering a number of training initiatives. Martin Kanzler from the European Audiovisual Observatory presents some statistics from the previous year which make for interesting reading. Last year saw a 33.6% share for European films, an increase on the previous year which was heartening to hear for those in the room. The first UK production to make an appearance in the top 10 was Paddington at no 4. In terms of the network itself, results for 2014 saw members in 30 countries, 530 cities, 868 cinemas, 2061 screens and 35 million admissions for European film which was heartening to hear.

The meeting then went through activities from the past year and plans for the year ahead. Apparently they are still seeking volunteers to go on the Europa jury at Venice which sounds quite a nice thing to do… Abderrahmane Sissako, director of Timbuktu, made a guest appearance. Europa Cinemas have supported his work and in turn, he is a great supporter of them and the work that they do. He spoke of the value of cinema for those without a voice and we also heard from others about a new cinema network emerging in Africa. I’m also able to catch up with friends from the UK and hear everyone’s news.

Journey to the Shore
Journey to the Shore by Kiyoshi Kurasawa

After the meeting, I meet Colin Burch from Verve Pictures for a quick drink and then go to dinner. Instead of meeting our fellow ICO staff after this, Simon persuades me to catch Journey to the Shore, showing in Un Certain Regard and directed by Kiyoshi Kurasawa (no relation). I receive my first introduction this festival to a more extreme shoe policy, when the usher initially refuses me entry objecting to my Birkenstocks (a nice festival pink!). As I’m accompanied by someone wearing jeans and a T-shirt who has no problems getting in, this seems quite strange.

The film itself seems to me initially like a more low-key Truly, Madly, Deeply: a gentle ghost story which is moderately engaging but not in any way exceptional. After this I’m ready for bed having got up at 4.30AM for my ridiculously early flight.

Monday 18th May

It turns out I have forgotten my phone charger, so spend the morning buying a new one, not being able to get back into the flat to charge it and trawling round the market place trying to find someone kind enough to let me use their plug. I alight on a nice Bulgarian lady who’s biggest hit of this market is a film called Raiders of the Lost SharkThe market is another Cannes entirely, a completely different world operating on another paradigm, which is interesting to visit, although I’m outstaying my welcome when it’s clear I’m unlikely to make a deal for the UK rights to Raiders of the Lost Shark.

Louder than Bombs
Louder than Bombs, directed by Joachim Trier

Luckily for me I have been given a ticket for the competition to Louder Than Bombs, Joachim Trier’s English-language title. It’s got a great cast with Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne and follows a family dealing with their grief in the year after the mother dies in a car crash. Initially it’s quite similar to 1,000 Times Good Night, with Huppert’s character a war photographer torn between her responsibilities to her family and career, but it goes on to focus more keenly on her teenage son and older child who has just become a father himself and their struggles with her loss. I really wanted to like it but it’s quite low-key and emotionally detached where it should be enticing you in, and despite the best efforts of its stellar cast, left me cold. I thought it unlikely to be picked up for UK distribution but I could be wrong…

The Measure of a Man
The Measure of a Man, by Stéphane Brizé

The ticket lottery grants me a special favour and I seem to have acquired another competition ticket so next is Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man. This is accomplished and assured film-making, reminiscent of Laurent Cantet’s Human Resources, and it seems to me the Dardenne’s brothers film in a competition where they do not feature this year. Vincent Lindon, plays Thierry, made redundant from his factory job. The film follows him through the depressing and sometimes farcical search for work in contemporary France, whilst trying to retain his dignity and humanity. There’s a great scene where he and his wife are learning to rock ‘n’ roll which offers some light comic relief, but for the most part, it’s a naturalistic and devastating view of blue collar life in the modern world. This one will definitely be picked up I think. It’s commercial prospects are slim but it deserves to be seen.

Time to get changed, catch up with my colleagues and go to the ICO dinner which celebrates our Film Festival training programmes. This is a lovely evening meeting new people as well as greeting old friends who have spoken on our Motovun course. I seem to end up going home at 4.30AM, but it’s my last night so fair enough I think.

Tuesday 19th May

I manage to get in one last film at the Debussy, Alias Maria showing in Un Certain Regard. It follows a 13-year-old pregnant female guerrilla at war in the forests of Colombia and entrusted with a special mission, in a unit taking the commanders newly-born son to safe haven in a local town. This is well-made committed film-making, focussing on untold stories from a contemporary warzone. There’s forced abortion as a matter of course for the female guerrillas and forced conscription for children who get in the way of the units. It’s a brutal and harsh world as depicted here but the film’s neo-realistic tones somehow render it less than completely engaging.

Alias Maria
Columbia’s Alias Maria, directed by Jose Luis Rugeles

On the way in I’m stopped for a second time apparently due to my offending Birkenstock’s. This development this year at Cannes is very interesting. I’ve been coming for nearly 20 years and for most of that time wearing the same kind of shoes (although I hasten to add, not the same pair). I’ve never before experienced this kind of strict shoe code in daytime screenings and it’s interesting to think about the change. In recent years, Cannes has been criticised for its lack of focus on women filmmakers and it seems strange, given that sensitivity, that it should choose to create a dress code which seems to enforce the stereotype that women should wear heels. I wonder if next year you’ll be thrown out if you don’t wear lipstick? We’ll see..

Anyway, time to catch the bus to the airport, this year has been short but thoroughly enjoyable.

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