Cannes 2015: Jonny's blog (part 2)

Posted on May 29, 2015 by Jonny Courtney

Categories: Festival Reports

Lamb
Lamb, Ethiopia’s first ever Cannes competition title, proved a fantastic debut

To read part one of Jonny’s report from Cannes, click here.

Hard to believe, but Lamb is the first Ethiopian film to screen at Cannes, and the excitement of the cast and crew on the red carpet of the Palais is infectious. The film itself is a gentle and often poignant look at poverty in rural Ethiopia, all told via the story of a young boy, Ephram, and his pet lamb. When Ephraim’s father heads to Addis Ababa to look for work, Ephraim is left to live with his Uncle’s family in a remote farmland, and is told his lamb will be slaughtered for the holidays as the family need to eat. The film submerges the viewer in the culture and customs of a seldom-seen community, and in doing so examines issues of poverty and gender in an intelligent and thought-provoking way.

Here After
Frosty, slowly-building Swedish piece The Here After

The Here After (Efterskalv) is Swedish filmmaker Magnusvon Horn’s feature debut, and is playing here in Director’s Fortnight. Shot on film by Lucasz Zal (Ida) and screened here on 35mm, the result is a flickering, cold and restrained film about a teenage boy, John, who is released from youth detention back into the care of his father. It is unclear at first what crime John has committed, but it is one that has left him ostracised by his classmates and community. In this respect the film put me in mind of Vinterberg’s The Hunt, but the narrative here is far more slow-burn, drip-feeding details and allowing sympathies to build throughout. A morally complex and brilliantly performed debut, I was pleased to hear this has been picked up by Soda Pictures in the UK, who have released similar challenging work previously.

Dheepan
Dheepan: Palme D’Or-winning French/Sri Lankan culture clash from Jacques Audiard, director of A Prophet

It seems the new ticketing system does not favour the lowly programmer after all… I queued for 90 minutes with Sarah to see Youth, and just missed out on getting in due to a combination of British politeness and a too-rigorous following of the (unwritten) rules of queuing. Fortunately, Simon had given me a ticket to one of the films I was most excited about seeing this year for the afternoon. Jaques Audiard’s (A Prophet) latest, Dheepan, tells of an ex-Tamal Tiger soldier from Sri Lanka (Jesuthasan Anthonythasan) who travels to France with his fake family, in order to start a new life away from the conflict. Once in Paris, Dheepan scores a job as a caretaker on a deprived housing estate, and Yalini (pretending to be his wife and played by Kalieaswari Srinivasan), helps look after an elderly man whose apartment is used by a local gang leader, Brahim (Vincent Rottiers). Much of the film looks at barriers, both emotional and physical, that exist between people and communities, and it is in these moments that Dheepan excels. Scenes between Yalini and Brahim, who struggle to express themselves as they would like to due to the language and social barriers, are electric, as are many of the scenes between Dheepan and his new ‘family’. They are intimate and complex, as is the majority of the film. Dheepan loses its way slightly in the final act, giving way to convention that it avoids for the majority of the film, but this cannot detract from another powerful and important work from Audiard, which should play well in ICO venues and provide modest returns for StudioCanal, who have the UK rights.

Mountains May Depart
Mountains May Depart: Jia Zhang-ke follows A Touch of Sin with another study of capitalism and China

Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke returns to the main competition with his latest film Mountains May Depart. Split into three acts,which take place in 1999, 2014 and 2025, the film follows the lives,relationships and choices of three people in China, whilst looking at the influences of the West and the effects of capitalism on society. As is expected, the film is technically brilliant, and as the film broadens in scope,so do the aspect ratios (starting in 1:33, then 1:85 and finally scope for the final part). In the hands of another filmmaker, this device could appear self-conscious or contrived, but Jia’s focus is always on the characters and performances, making this a very human story. There are some missteps in the final act (the scenes in English are pretty clunky) yet there is so much to love in this film, and it remains a beautiful and ambitious work.

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