While not all of these are debuts, Screen profiles the 15 “first features” selected as part of the Cannes 2020 label.
Dir. Déa Kulumbegashvili
Originally announced with the title of Naked Sky, this timely Georgian drama revolves around a young Jehovah’s Witness missionary who is in shock after angry locals burn down her place of worship during a service. Her husband obtains CCTV of the attack but this puts them at odds with the police. Born and raised in the small Georgian town of Lagodekhi in the shadow of the Caucasus Mountains, Kulumbegashvili studied film directing at Colombia University in New York. She made her Cannes debut in Official Selection in 2014 with short film Invisible Places and returned in 2016 with Lethe, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight.
Contact: Eva Diederix, Wild Bunch International
Broken Keys (Leb)
Dir. Jimmy Keyrouz
Lebanese filmmaker Keyrouz describes his debut feature as a war drama inspired by true events, about a pianist whose dreams of pursuing a music career in Europe are shattered when his wartorn town is taken over by an extremist group. When the keys to his instrument are broken in a shooting incident, he embarks on a perilous quest to get them repaired. The work expands a story Keyrouz first explored in his short film Nocturne In Black, which was nominated in the Bafta/LA Student Film Awards in 2017.
Contact: Antoun Sehnaoui, Ezekiel Film Production
The Death Of Cinema And My Father Too (Isr)
Dir. Dani Rosenberg
Fact and fiction blur in this drama about a filmmaker coming to terms with his father’s terminal illness through his camera. It marks Rosenberg’s first solo credit after a number of festival-travelling shorts and co-directing (with Yaniv Segalovich) 2018 documentary Zohar: The Return, about popular Israeli actor Uri Zohar, who turned his back on stardom in the 1970s to become an ultra-Orthodox rabbi.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Viggo Mortensen
Mortensen’s feature directing debut about a man who moves from his farm to live with his gay son’s family in Los Angeles was inspired by, but is not about, his parents and premiered at Sundance this year. HanWay Films launched pre-sales at EFM in 2019 immediately prior to the shoot in Canada and California.
Contact: HanWay Films
Dirs. Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh
A teenager with dreams of becoming an astronaut embarks on a mission with his friends to save the tower block he calls home when it is earmarked for demolition, likening it to the spaceship in his imagination. Big-screen debutant Alséni Bathily leads the cast of this Haut et Court production with support from Lyna Khoudri, star of Algerian Oscar submission Papicha, Jamil McCraven (Nocturama), Finnegan Oldfield and Denis Lavant.
Contact: Totem Films
Dir. Samir Guesmi
Prolific French actor Guesmi, who has some 130 acting credits to his name, makes his feature directing debut with this father-son drama revolving around an adolescent dreamer who lands his father in debt when he gets caught shoplifting. He tries to make amends and regain his respect.
Contact: Eva Diederix, Wild Bunch International
John And The Hole (US)
Dir. Pascual Sisto
A cast including Michael C Hall and Jennifer Ehle star in a coming-of-age psychological thriller written by the Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of Birdman and frequent Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu collaborator Nicolás Giacobone. The story follows a young teenager who takes his family hostage in a hole in the ground and marks New York-based Spanish visual artist Sisto’s feature directing debut.
Contact: United Talent Agency
Memory House (Braz-Fr)
Dir. Joao Paulo Miranda Maria
A recipient of support from Cinémas du Monde, Hubert Bals Europe Fund and FSA (Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual), Memory House follows a black native from Brazil’s rural north who moves to a former Austrian colony in the south of the country to work in a milk factory. Surrounded by xenophobic locals, he finds comfort in an abandoned house that reconnects him with his roots. Memory House marks Maria’s first directorial outing after years making shorts.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
My Best Part (Fr)
Dir. Nicolas Maury
Actor Maury, best known internationally as one of the assistant characters in hit French show Call My Agent!, makes his solo directing debut. He also stars as an actor in the midst of an existential crisis who retreats to his mother’s home in the countryside after a series of romantic and professional setbacks in Paris, but finds little peace-of-mind once there. Maury co-wrote the screenplay with Maud Ameline (Amanda, Arab Blues) and Sophie Fillières; Nathalie Baye co-stars. Charles Gillibert at Paris-based CG Cinema produces.
Contact: Alice Lesort, Les Films du Losange
Dir. Ninja Thyberg
Thyberg makes her anticipated feature directing debut with Pleasure (formerly titled Jessica), about Bella, a 20-year-old Swedish woman navigating the porn industry of Los Angeles. Thyberg’s short of the same name won a prize at Cannes Critics Week 2013; the feature has been in the works for more than four years and is produced by Erik Hemmendorff and Ruben Ostlund’s Plattform Produktion. SF Studios will release in Sweden in early 2021.
Should The Wind Drop (Arm-Fr-Bel)
Dir. Nora Martirosyan
Marking the feature debut of Armenian filmmaker Martirosyan, this drama unfolds against the backdrop of the breakaway Caucasian republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is trying to open its own airport. An international auditor (Gregoire Colin) who is called in to appraise the facility finds himself uniting with a young local boy to help the isolated territory open up to the outside world. It is produced by France’s Sister Productions and co-produced by Belgium’s Kwassa Films and Armenia’s Aneva.
Contact: Indie Sales
Dir. Charlène Favier
Free-spirited French director Favier is a self-taught filmmaker who honed her craft while travelling the world, stopping off in London, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Morocco. She returns to her native French Alps for this debut feature tackling sexual abuse of minors in the sporting world. Rising young actress Noée Abita, who collaborated on Favier’s short film Odol Gorri, stars as a young alpine skiing champion who falls prey to her coach, played by Jérémie Renier. The film was shot in the French ski resorts of Les Arcs, Val d’Isère and Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Contact: The Party Films Sales
Spring Blossom (Fr)
Dir. Suzanne Lindon
One of the youngest directors in Official Selection, Lindon (who is the daughter of 2015 Cannes best actor winner Vincent Lindon and Cesar winner Sandrine Kiberlain) makes her feature debut with this semi-autobiographical tale. She directs and stars as a Parisian teenager who finds a soulmate in an older actor (120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) star Arnaud Valois), who is also disenchanted with his milieu. Lindon wrote the screenplay when she was just 15.
Striding Into The Wind (China)
Dir. Wei Shujun
Produced by Alibaba Pictures, Striding Into The Wind is a coming-of-age story centred around a young filmmaker who takes a road trip across China in a Jeep Cherokee. The film was partially funded through tokenisation via SingularDTV, which has distribution rights outside China and is working on an innovative distribution plan, involving blockchain, streaming and traditional methods. Liu Qingling and SingularDTV’s Zach LeBeau are the main producers on the film. Wei has previously directed feature film Duck Neck, which premiered at Busan International Film Festival in 2016, and short film On The Border, which was awarded with a Special Jury Distinction when it screened in the short film competition at Cannes in 2018.
Contact: Jake Craven, Breaker
Dir. Peter Dourountzis
Pierre Deladonchamps, who made waves in Cannes in 2013 in Stranger By The Lake, plays a man who arrives in Paris without a penny and only his immense charm to sustain him. He seizes every opportunity to work, love and kill. This debut feature builds on ideas explored in Dourountzis’s 2014 short film The Wanderer.