Spike Lee and Panahi head Cannes Competition

Question mark hangs over Von Trier as line-up announced

by Richard Mowe

Action! Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux (left) and president Pierre Lescure meet the media at today’s programme launch in Paris
Action! Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux (left) and president Pierre Lescure meet the media at today’s programme launch in Paris Photo: Richard Mowe

A whistle-stop tour of this year’s 71st Cannes Film Festival was delivered by director Thierry Frémaux and president Pierre Lescure in just one hour and 41 minutes today at a Paris media gathering at the UGC Normandie cinema on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. They confronted topics as varied as gender balance in the festival and the industry; selfies (and any other personal photography) on the red carpet, the row over Netflix, rebalancing of the screening timetable, and the possible return of that banned enfant terrible Lars Von Trier.

The films, as is only right, took centre stage. Frémaux revealed that Spike Lee, still angry after all these years, will return to the Croisette after a two decade gap to show his new offering BlacKkKlansman, starring Adam Driver, Topher Grace and Laura Harrier. The Competition also will give a berth to fellow American David Robert Mitchell’s Los Angeles set noir thriller Under the Silver Lake, with a cast which includes Andrew Garfield and Riley Keogh.

Praying for a glorious Cannes: Festival director Thierry Frémaux at today’s media launch in Paris
Praying for a glorious Cannes: Festival director Thierry Frémaux at today’s media launch in Paris Photo: Richard Mowe

Frémaux revealed that the Festival was working with the authorities to ensure that director Jafar Panahi will be able to travel to present his new film Three Faces. This will be the first time Panahi premières in Competition in Cannes, after winning the top prizes at Locarno with The Mirror, at Venice with The Circle and Berlin with Taxi Tehran. Three Faces is about three actresses at different stages of their careers.

Although Paolo Sorrentino will not be present with his lavish two-part look at media tycoon-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi because the first part already will have been seen at home, Italy is represented two Competition titles: Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone's Dogman and Alice Rohrwacher with her new drama, Happy As Lazzaro.

Rohrwacher is one of three female directors in the main competition, the others being Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki (Caramel) with her feature Capernaum and French director Eva Husson's Kurdish war film, Girls Of The Sun. Frémaux stressed that the Festival selectors did not want to make selections purely for gender balance. It was a fact of life that fewer women directors were at work although he was pleased to note that the situation was changing, especially in the technical departments. The Festival did try to ensure parity on its juries with Cate Blanchett announced this year as President of the Competition jury.

Stephanie Brize's factory-set social drama At War, starring Vincent Lindon (who received the 2015 Cannes Best Actor prize for the director’s The Measure Of A Man) will represent France alongside the return to Cannes of Christophe Honoré (ten years after Les Chansons D’Amour), with Sorry Angel featuring Vincent Lacoste. A new French film by actor Gilles Leouche, Le Grand Bain, receives an Out of Competition slot.

Frémaux took obvious pleasure in accouncing that May 1968 veteran and Cannes disciple Jean-Luc Godard, has been persuaded to compete for the Palme d’Or with Le Livre D'Image (The Book Of Images). The 89-year-old Godard was last in Cannes with his 2014 film Goodbye To Language, shown in 3D. An image from his classic New Wave film Pierrot Le Fou graces this year's official poster.

The selection of special screenings includes Wim Wenders' Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (to be shown reverentially on a Sunday) and The State Against Mandela And The Others by Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte.

Opening the festival on May 8 will be Asgar Farhadi’s previously announced Spanish-language drama Everybody Knows, which will play in Competition. The film stars Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, two European icons, rather than American star power although Hollywood hoopla will surround the Out of Competition slot for the new Star Wars extravaganza Solo.

Because of a legal dispute, Terry Gilliam’s much anticipated The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was unable to make the final mix.

On the official selfies ban Frémaux said that the trend had slowed up the red carpet flow. As opposed to other Festivals the public also are allowed to go up the fabled steps of the Palais des Festivals alongside the celebrities and the film teams. “It has become a bit of mess,” he said, and detracted from Cannes’ glamour and reputation.

As for the decision to make the media see the Competition films at the same time as the red carpet premières Frémaux argued that this was being done to maintain the element of surprise. It had been observed that embargoes about talking the film before its official screening were disregarded and that some journalists were event tweeting before the final credits had rolled.

Frémaux hoped that the ongoing difference of opinion with Netflix concerning the stipulation that all films in the Competition must also be set for a cinema release might be resolved in the future and that the streaming giant could be welcomed back to Cannes in the future. “The dialogue continues …,” he smiled, although he regretted the absence of The Other Side Of The Wind, the unfinished final opus of Orson Welles, one victim of Netflix’s decision to shun this year’s Festival.

Leaving room for a few more titles to be added to the line-up as well as the Cannes Classics selection, the organisers like to keep the element of surprise until the last moment including a closing title. One of those surprises may be the return of Lars Von Trier who was declared persona non grata after making Nazi remarks at a press conference six years ago. He claims his new serial killer film The House That Jack Built is “possibly the most traditional I have made.”

Frémaux was keen to promote the inclusiveness of the Festival. “It does not belong to Pierre and me - it is everyone’s Festival and that’s the way we want to keep it.”

Meanwhile here is the full line-up to date:-


  • Everybody Knows, Asghar Farhadi (opening-night film)
  • At War, Stephane Brize
  • Dogman, Matteo Garrone
  • Le Livre D’Image, Jean-Luc Godard
  • Asako I & II, Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • Sorry Angel, Christophe Honore
  • Girls Of The Sun, Eva Husson
  • Ash Is Purest White, Jia Zhangke
  • Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda
  • Burning, Lee Chang-dong
  • Capernaum, Nadine Labaki
  • Blackkklansman, Spike Lee
  • Under The Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell
  • Three Faces, Jafar Panahi
  • Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Happy As Lazzaro, Alice Rohrwacher
  • Yomeddine, AB Shawky
  • Summer, Kiril Serebrennikov

Out of Competition

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ron Howard
  • Le Grand Bain, Gilles Lellouche

Un Certain Regard

  • Border, Ali Abbasi
  • Sofia, Meryem Benm’ Barek
  • Little Tickles, Andrea Bescond and Eric Metayer
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan
  • Manto, Nandita Das
  • Sextape, Antoine Desrosieres
  • Girl, Lukas Dhont
  • Angel Face, Vanessa Filho
  • Euphoria, Valeria Golino
  • Friend, Wanuri Kahiu
  • My Favorite Fabric, Gaya Jiji
  • The Harvesters, Etienne Kallos
  • In My Room, Ulrich Kohler
  • El Angel, Luis Ortega
  • The Gentle Indifference Of The World, Adilkhan Yerzhanov

Midnight Screenings

  • Gongjak (The Spy Gone North), Yoon Jong-Bing
  • Arctic, Joe Penna

Special Screenings

  • Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word, Wim Wenders
  • The State Against Mandela And The Others, Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte
  • La Traversee, Romain Goupil
  • To The Four Winds, Michel Toesca
  • Les Ames Mortes (Dead Souls), Wang Bing
  • O Grande Circo Mistico (Le Grand Cirque Mystique), Carlo Diegues
  • 10 Years In Thailand, Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol and Apichatpong Weerasethakul

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