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Thursday, March 14, 2019

#Cannes2019 Wish List 1 - French Female Filmmakers

This year I'll start my Wish List with films by female directors as in the buzz list there is an unusual number of them plus most films I'm truly interested in watching (with few exceptions) are made by them.

Still no official news about selections announcements but there is some speculation:  Press Conference Official Selection on April 18,  Semaine on April 22 and Quizaine on April 23.  The only official announcement came yesterday with ACID selection on April 23, date is already in calendar.  The closing date for submitting films was last Monday, March 11th so now the decision process has begun in full.

French Female Filmmakers

Céline Sciamma with Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady On Fire)

Sciamma has been twice before in Cannes, in 2007 with her debut film Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies) competing in Un Certain Regard and in 2014 with Bande de Filles (Girlhood) in the Quinzaine.  But she was also in 2016 Quinzaine not as a director but as screenwriter of Ma vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini).

It's time Sciamma joins Cannes selection (competition or UCR) and hope she has the film to do so as she already completed her coming of age trilogy (Water Lilies, Tomboy and Girlhood) so now it's time for her to tell a different story and to show the evolution her peculiar storytelling style has taken.

Portrait of a Lady On Fire is her fourth film, a period drama with the following synopsis from the foreign sales agent mk2.

Brittany, France, 1760. Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young lady who has just left the convent. Héloïse is a reluctant bride to be and Marianne must paint her without her knowing. She observes her by day and secretly paints her at night. Intimacy and attraction grow between the two women as they share Héloïse’s first and last moments of freedom, all whilst Marianne paints the portrait that will end it all.

Film has an intriguing story with a fantastic female cast, starting with Adèle Haenel followed by Valeria Golino, Noémie Merlant and Luàna Bajrami.   Sciamma wrote the script that obviously is full of lesbian-interest, which is alright with me but I really enjoy Sciamma as a master-in-the-making filmmaker no matter what story she chooses to tell. Below is one of the first film stills with Adèle Haenel as Héloïse.

Film producer was Lilies Films, Arte France Cinema and Hold Up Films co produce; mk2 handles film exports/foreign sales and Pyramide Distribution has French distribution.  Film was promoted by mk2 during the 2019 Berlinale.

Many are hoping Sciamma's film goes to Cannes competition which could be her first time, but IF post production is not ready then film most likely will go to Venice as circulating is a non-official date claiming October 2019 release.

Mia Hansen-Løve with Bergman Island

The 7th full-length film by Hansen-Løve who has been in Cannes in 2007 Quinzaine with All is Forgiven and in 2009 Un Certain Regard with Special Jury Award winner Father of my Children.

Just read in a March 6, 2019 interview that she has filmed HALF of Bergman Island and the second half she will film it in June 2019!!!  Evidently not in Cannes 2019 and perhaps will not make it to Venice 2019; so, maybe will be Berlinale 2020 or Cannes 2020.

Nevertheless will share film first part was shot in Fårö Island, Gotland, Sweden (yes, island was the home of Ingmar Bergman), film is in English (her first?) starring Mia Wasikowska, John Turturro, Vicky Krieps; is a French and Sweden production and has the following synopsis: film follows an American couple who move to the island one summer, intending to write a screenplay under Bergman's spiritual guidance; but soon, reality and fiction start to become intertwined.

Justine Triet with Sibyl

Justine Triet had her debut feature film Act of Panic screened at the lesser known Cannes parallel section 2013 ACID so we can say, she was in the outskirts of Cannes.  But then her second film Victoria was the opening film of 2016 Semaine de la Critique.

In her third film she was able to assemble a top-notch cast that includes Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel, Niels Schneider and Sandra Hüller (of Toni Erdmann fame).  No doubt that cast it's incredible and Triet seems to be on fire so there must be great chances she makes it to the Official Selection, perhaps not in the Competition -film is a comedy- but probably in the UCR section.

The story, written by Justine Triet with occasional input from Arthur Harari, revolves around Sibyl, a novelist-turned-psychoanalyst, who has been devoting herself to the latter occupation for the last ten years. Spurred on by the desire to start writing again, she decides to let most of her patients go. As she seeks inspiration, a young woman (Margot) contacts her one evening and begs to see her. Sibyl eventually agrees. But Margot’s revelations will gradually turn Sibyl’s life upside down…

Perhaps a better synopsis comes from mk2 site who handles internationals sales.

Sibyl, a jaded psychotherapist, returns to her first passion: writing. But her newest patient Margot, a troubled up-and-coming actress, proves to be source of inspiration that is far too tempting. Fascinated almost to the point of obsession, Sibyl becomes more and more involved in Margot’s tumultuous life, reviving volatile memories that bring her face to face with her past.
After Victoria (In Bed With Victoria), Justine Triet continues her unreserved exploration of the modern woman’s psyche through the intense friendship between a distressed therapist and a troubled young actress.

Worth mentioning that enjoyed Victoria more than what I could imagine or expected as I'm always afraid of La Semaine films; but it is a film that has above average quality with a surprising mass appeal; that's a not so-easy styles combination to make successfully (arty plus commercial), so chapeau to Triet.  After such an experience, Sibyl has become must-be-seen for me.

Sibyl is produced by Les Films Pelléas and co-produced by France 2 Cinéma, Les Films de Pierre, Page 114, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma and Belgium’s Scope Pictures.  Has been pre-purchased by Canal+, Ciné+ and France 2; also secured support from the Île-de-France region, and the Cinémage, Cofinova and Cinéventure Soficas. Le Pacte has French distribution and mk2 has international sales.  Unifrance claims the production is 100% French, so perhaps the only thing Belgian here is Efira.

Alice Winocour with Proxima

My knowledge of Alice Winocour is not based on the films she has directed even do her debut film, Augustine, opened in Cannes 2012 La Semaine and her second film, Maryland (Disorder), screened in Cannes 2016 UCR; my knowledge and admiration come from her incredibly good screenplay for Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven.  Still, both films she directed are worth watching even when are more on the average side of the scale.

So what is to expect from her first English-language film?  Hopefully much more than any regular flick as first is a French/German production and cast is more European oriented than American.  The only known American actor is Matt Dillon, other cast members are Eva Green, Kars Eidinger and Sandra Hüller.

Film tells about a female astronaut and the synopsis reads as follows:

Sarah (Eva Green) is a French astronaut training at the European Space Agency in Cologne. She is the only woman in the arduous program. She lives alone with Stella, her seven-year-old daughter. Sarah feels guilty that she cannot spend more time with her child. Her love is overpowering, unsettling. When Sarah is chosen to be part of the crew of a year-long space mission called Proxima, it creates chaos in the mother-daughter relationship.

Filmed in Baikonur, Kazakhstan -where space flights take off-, in Russia not far from Moscow, in Star City -where astronauts are prepped-, and in Cologne, Germany -at the European Space Agency-.

Film produced by Dharamsala, Darius Films and Pandora Film; co-productions with Pathé Production and France 3 Cinéma; French distribution and film exports/foreign sales Pathé Films. Unifrance claims is a 100% French production.

Rebecca Zlotowski with Une fille facile (An Easy Girl)

The fourth feature by Zlotowski following Planetarium (2016 Venice), Grand Central (Cannes UCR 2013) and Belle épine (Cannes La Semaine 2010) is most likely ready to go back to Un Certain Regard as director goes back to her roots in style and substance.  Because director commitments with a TV series (Les Sauvages) there is no guarantee film will be ready for Cannes, so there is a possibility that will go again to Venice.

Starring Benoît Magimel, Clotilde Courau, Nuno Lopez and Zahia Dehar film tells the following story.

Synopsis Naïma has just turned 16. This summer, she will have to decide what she wants from life if she doesn’t want to miss out. Then her cousin Sofia arrives – 22, with an amazing body and a dangerously seductive lifestyle. Naïma desires only to follow her own path, so long as it leads upwards… Despite the warnings of her best friend Dodo, she and Sofia will live through unforgettable encounters during a long summer that will mark them forever. A long summer on the sun-drenched French Riviera provides the setting for Rebecca Zlotowski’s playful, intimate and intense coming of age story.

Enjoyed much Belle épine and Grand Central was alright -both starring Lea Seydoux-; no, didn't enjoy much Planetarium.  Still, I'm looking forward to find if with this film she goes back to her original much successful style.

Film produced by Les Films Velvet co-produced by France 3 Cinéma; pre-purchased by Canal+ secured backing from Cinécap, Indéfilms and Cinémage Soficas; French distribution by Ad Vitam and internationals sales managed by Wild Bunch.


Up to last year Cannes has not been a festival with many films by female directors, we are not certain for the reason why and will not speculate. This year there are some interesting films by female directors including those above and we hope that maybe is time to have a young female director in the competition as after all, and in particular for those above, almost all have started their career in one section or sidebar of the Festival de Cannes.

After checking info for the above directors it became evident that they have a lot more in common than the obvious doing French cinema productions as since the very beginning of the careers, their converging point of departure has been the festival.  So, Cannes has been giving opportunities to young upcoming female directors but not many have had access to the Official Selection and when they did was in the Un Certain Regard section.  Nowadays many are pushing for more female representation in film festivals and agree with fest organizers that Cannes is not about the gender of the film director but now there is no excuse as there are films -and one in particular- that at least in paper, deserve to be in the competition.  Let's hope change arrives to Cannes to stay.

Think will do a second wish list with some male director films I wish we could see in the 72nd edition of Festival de Cannes.

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