It’s that time of year again – sun, sea, sand, and sitting in a dark cinema. Yes, while hundreds flock to Cannes to appreciate the French Riviera, many others will spend the next two weeks sitting inside a cinema, with their eyes fixed on the screen in front. I will be one of them, trying to catch as many of the 50 films in Official Selection as possible, plus those on the side.
This will be my fifth time covering the Cannes Film Festival, aka Festival De Cannes. With over four thousand journalists attending and everyone vying for Brad Pitt’s attention, it can get quite overwhelming, but I think I have a decent enough handle on it now (chocolate croissants play a big part here!) There is a lot of excitement growing over South Africa’s involvement in this year’s festival. Last year, the Oliver Schmitz-directed film Life, Above All garnered a ten-minute standing ovation and praise from top critics. This year, another Oliver looks set to make his mark on this year’s event.
Oliver Hermanus is the 27-year-old filmmaker who directed the poignant film Shirley Adams, that gained acclaim last year. I spoke to him at Cannes just before that released and he had his sights set on bigger things for his big screen career. This year we will get to see his latest film, Skoonheid, which has been selected to screen officially as part of the Un Certain Regard section of the fest, and stands the chance of winning the festival’s next most important prize after the Palme d’Or.
Hermanus’ film will compete along with others from all over the world, including director Gus van Sant’s latest offering.
There will be nine filmmakers attending the festival through the National Film and Video Foundation. Among the aims the NFVF has this year is to promote South Africa as a premiere filmmaking destination, as well as to support local filmmakers attending the festival. Another of the aim is to position the country as a co-production partner of choice for other countries. In fact, Skoonheid was the first film to benefit from the South African/French co-production treaty, which means that both countries could benefit from different incentives associated with home-grown content. The deal was inked at Cannes last year.
South African filmmakers will all showcase their various projects, and I will be keeping a close tab on all those too, so keep checking in right here.
As for the festival in general, Robert De Niro will preside over the jury that decides which film wins the Palme d’Or, the festival’s main honour.
Other films se to attract attention include The Tree of Life, from Terrence Malick, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as father and son, in different time periods; We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the Lionel Shriver bestseller, with Tilda Swinton as the mother of a teenager that goes on a killing spree; The Skin I Live In from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar about a man obsessed with creating a new kind of skin that can shield human beings from any danger, starring Antonio Banderas; and Melancholia from the ever-controversial Lars von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst as a bride celebrating her marriage as a planet called Melancholia heads towards Earth. Hmmm…Luckily Johnny Depp will wipe away any horrible images von Trier may show us. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides promises to delight audiences at this year’s fest – we certainly hope so!
The fun kicks off from Wednesday the 11th of May!