First-time filmmakers who took home the Camera d'Or
by Amber Wilkinson
Cannes Film Festival will be rolling out the red carpets on its 75th edition next week - and you can look out for plenty of coverage from us. The festival has long served as a place where big films and stars can go and make a splash - with this year's out-of-competition line-up including Top Gun: Maverick. But away from the A-list photo scrums and established directors, there are new names and talent also getting an opportunity to come to the fore. We previously highlighted some Cannes Palme d'Or winners that are available to stream, and you can read that selection - with updated info on where to watch - here. This week, we're turning our attention to Camera d'Or winners - and a couple of that award's runner-up Special Mentions. This award is presented to first films - although student films don't count, which explains the presence of Jim Jarmusch below - and celebrates new talent, with some winners, as you can see, going on to make a serious name for themselves.
Houda Benyamina brings a similar sort of energy to her tale of life in the Paris banlieue to that of Celine Sciamma's Girlhood. Benyamina's tale followsDounia (Oulaya Amamra) and her best mate Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) as they try to stay on top in this hard knock environment. Powered by the pair's youthful energy that includes a beautiful flight of fantasy in which they imagine they're living it large in a Ferrari, this film has an infectious rebelliousness even if, like many debuts, it feels as though there's a bit too much going on at once.Benyamina is currently in pre-production on her next film, Toutes Por Une (All For One), which re-imagines the Three Musketeers as women - which sounds like reason for excitement.
One of the most inventive debuts at Sundance for some years, Benh Zeitlin's film came to Cannes with that festival's Grand Jury prize under its belt and would go on to be nominated for four Oscars. His film is a riot of imagination, focused on the magic realist adventures of little Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis in the role that would propel her to stardom) in the back (and rising) waters of the Louisiana bayou, with her extremely unconventional dad Wink (Dwight Henry) and the rest of her off-kilter community. This is a vibrant journey into a child's imagination, where all things are possible and a warm celebration of humanity that combines the mythic with the wonders of the natural environment to brilliant effect.
Steve McQueen’s intense debut feature recounts the last days of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands’ in Northern Ireland's Maze prison, but also broadens out to examine the atmosphere and events that existed within the infamous H-Blocks of the Long Nesh prison in the early Eighties. Featuring a towering performance from Michael Fassbender in the central role, as he moves from zealot to a shadow of the man he was as he succumbs to hunger, the script by Enda Walsh finds time to consider the fabric of Sands' incarceration as well as the man himself. Shot with an eye for brutal beauty by Sean Bobbit, the immaculate craftsmanship serves rather than overshadows the complex portrait of both the time period and Sands himself. As McQueen put it at the time: "For me it was never about left and right it was always about you and me, in a sense of who we are as human beings."
Control, Amazon Freevee and other platforms - Special Mention in 2007
Director Anton Corbijn began his career in music photography, so he's a perfect fit for this consideration of the short life of Joy Division star Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), which is based on the memoir of Curtis' widow Deborah. Riley is perfectly cast as the troubled star, while the cast actually singing the songs rather than just miming along adds to a sense of raw realism. Beautifully framed, as you might expect with a photographer behind the camera, with the black and white stock adding to its intensity, this is an emotionally vivid evocation of Curtis' life that also features a magnetic supporting performance from Samantha Morton as Deborah. It lost out to Etgar Karet's Jellyfish for the Camera d'Or but arguably won the critical and audience battle thereafter.
A man with no name (Alejandro Ferretis) finds shelter with an elderly widow (Magdalene Flores) in a mountain village in Carlos Reygadas' debut film, which lost out on the Camera d'Or to Julie Lopes-Curval's Seaside. Like all of Reygadas' subsequent films, the plot is secondary to the feel of the thing - although he has become a lot more complex, some might say, overly so, since. In his first feature, there's a calm to the contemplation which, in this case, is a meditative consideration of the human condition and the importance of connection that celebrates the vulnerability and stoicism of both emotional and natural landscapes.
Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk had made other films prior to this story, which is rooted in Inuit myth, but it was the first to be made in the Inuit language of Inuktitut and brought him to international prominence. The critical heat it received no doubt helped many Indigenous directors who have followed to get their voices heard more easily. This tale of a bitter feud across two generations, centres on a love triangle between Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq), Oki (Peter Henry Arnatsiaq), and Oki's betrothed (Sylvia Ivalu). Kunuk creates a complex but immersive and vibrant picture of life for the Inuit - marked out by stunning snowy cinematography and a haunting score - that also explores how their fables teach the young the importance of putting the group's wellbeing above their own personal desires.
Anton Bitel writes: In Jim Jarmusch's second feature, New York small-time hustler and would-be hipster Willie (John Lurie) worries that his cousin Eva (Eszter Balint), on a surprise visit from Budapest, will cramp his style - but as Willie, his partner in crime Eddie (Richard Edson) and Eva hang out together in the city, and then interstate, Eva outclasses and outwits the two boys at every turn, exposing the dull loserdom behind their carefully constructed, barely convincing cool. Shot in stark monochrome by Tom DiCillo, the low-budget, minimalist Stranger Than Paradise lets its characters deadpan their way through an offseason scenario. Here it takes an outsider to reveal the feckless, rootless alienation of supposed insiders, and to grasp (as they never have) the American Dream in the Land of Opportunity.
We're heading to the short film Palme d'Or for our short film blast this week, and Norman McLaren's delightfully playful Blinkity Blank - a lovely little watch for all the family.