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The Cannes Film Festival has just revealed (another) a dazzling lineup for its 77th edition.

Studio movies such as George Miller’s Furiosa and Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga mingle with new films from arthouse darlings such as Paolo Sorrentino, Yorgos Lanthimos, Jacques Audiard and Andrea Arnold. Discoveries will include first-time filmmaker Agathe Riedinger who will play in Competition.

Question marks and anticipation abound, not least in the shape of Francis Ford Coppola epic Megalopolis, which will play in Competition. Coppola is one of the rare two-time Palme d’Or winners.

Below, we run down five key talking points from the lineup announcement this morning.

Why so many English-language movies in Competition?

There are a whopping ten English-language movies in Competition (The Apprentice, Bird, Emilia Perez, Megalopolis, The Shrouds, The Substance, Kinds Of Kindness, Limonov, Anora and Oh Canada). That’s more than half the Competition. By our initial count this is a record, but we’re still digging in on that. The festival has yet to confirm. This is easily the most in the past decade. In 2018 there were only two English-language films in Competition. Last year also saw a spike with seven English-language movies in Competition. That in itself is a rare number. Frémaux admitted to us today there is a “strong American-Anglo-Saxon presence” this year, but also claimed it to be a “coincidence”. Could there be underlying reasons for why this year and last year having skewed so English-language? Are more big-name arthouse directors looking to make movies in English today? Yes. Cannes certainly also knows that attracting big-name English-language projects guarantees the biggest media spotlight possible. Today, festival President Iris Knobloch was keen to trumpet last year’s record number of attendees, TV viewers and Oscar nominations (Cannes movies generated an impressive 26 nominations). She beamed that this year’s festival will be of equal calibre. Having major studio movies and Hollywood stars certainly helps that cause. The event has not been shy in the past to go lighter on studio projects and starry English-language fare, but it’s hard to imagine that being the case anytime soon after the buzz generated by the last few additions. And if Cannes once again delivers a lineup full of Oscar nominees, there will be a real question as to whether the awards season has been fundamentally reoriented to kick off in May. In turn that would be interesting as a statement about the enduring power of cinema itself given that Cannes is a Netflix-free zone and tends to have a light streamer presence across its lineup.

Four women filmmakers in Competition

There are four female directors in Competition this year: Andrea Arnold, Coralie Fargeat and relative newcomers Payal Kapadia and Agathe Riedinger. That number is down on last year but up on years past where there have been none, one or two women filmmakers selected. Here is Frémaux’ take from this morning on the number of female directors in Competition: “The number of four female directors is the average number for the last few years. It is less than last year. As I’ve said in the past, Cannes is at the end of the chain, it’s an echo of the world cinema, which last year produced lots of films by women and this year a bit less. We need half a century to understand what is going on but the trend is that there are more and more female directors throughout the world. We keep saying it – and we will publish a study on this subject soon – that there are a lot of more female directors in Competition and in the Official selection overall by percentage than there are around the world. Each time we hesitate between a film that is by a man and one that is by a woman and we have to make a choice, we will go for the one that is more rare [the one by the woman]. Again, I repeat, we need to look at this issue across the year and not only on the day of the Cannes press conference to ensure the place of women in cinema.” 

Discoveries

Many people’s favourite festival moments are those unexpected discoveries, unearthing a rare gem filmmaker that may or may not signal a new voice in cinema, or even a subject that hasn’t previously had great attention. Un Certain Regard is of course mainly devoted to emerging filmmakers so discoveries abound there, but journalists will also be scrambling to learn about the aforementioned Competition filmmakers Riedinger and Kapadia, and even Magnus Von Horn. There will be discoveries in the shape of well known actors making their first or second movies (Noémie Merlant and Ariane Labed, among them) and also well known filmmakers shedding light on subjects that haven’t haven’t previously been in the spotlight (Raoul Peck’s film about South African photographer Ernest Cole, for example).

China and India have a moment

There were multiple years when Indian journalists at the Cannes press conference would lament the lack of Indian films in the lineup. Frémaux has said part of the reason journalists no longer get to ask questions after the lineup conference is because he was tired of having to respond to questions about the lack of films from certain countries. Indian journalists should be happy today, however. There are three movies in the lineup either by Indian or Indian heritage filmmakers. There is also a strong showing from Chinese filmmakers, which Frémaux noted as a welcome return for a country that has been less present on the international film stage of late. There are three Chinese filmmakers in the lineup and another from Hong Kong. Cannes generally does well when it comes to North African filmmakers and this year is no different. There is also a Somali first film, which will be of interest, and a first ever Saudi film: Norah, by Saudi director Tawfik Alzaidi, which debuted last year at the Red Sea Film Festival. It’s rare for Cannes to take a movie that has already debuted elsewhere and Norah was well received by those who saw it in Jeddah.

Those who didn’t hear their names called…

Among the many movies that have been speculated in recent months as potential Cannes movies, some stood out for not being named this morning. Among them new projects from Audrey Diwan, Francois Ozon, Arnaud Desplechin, Michel Hazanavicius and Rachel Tsangari. Also the big-budget Count of Monte Cristo movie starring Pierre Niney. We’ve also been expecting something Studio Ghibli related. There will be various reasons for these omissions, and Frémaux said there will be a number of additions in coming weeks.

So while this is an exciting Cannes lineup, we also could be in store for a very strong Venice, TIFF and Telluride. Among filmmakers with movies we hope to see this fall, in addition to the ones above, are Steve McQueen, Luca Guadagnino, Justin Kurzel, Lucretia Martel, Walter Salles, Pablo Larrain, Julie Delpy, Marjane Satrapi and Mike Leigh, as well as studio movies such as Joker: Folie A Deux and streamer pics like Six Triple Eight and The Piano Lesson.

As noted above, also not hearing their name this morning were the streamers. Streamers — in particular Netflix — have formed a key part of the conversation about the Cannes lineup in recent years, either through their presence or non-presence. The reasons for that have been much picked over and Cannes has been seen as diminished in the past by not having Netflix movies near their lineup. This year, no one is thinking about that and it’s interesting to consider why.

Melanie Goodfellow contributed to this report.



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