Screen staff preview each of the titles in the Cannes Un Certain Regard section, which this year’s includes films from Eskil Vogt, Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova, and Laura Wandel.
After Yang (US)
Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith star in this drama about a family in the near future who face big existential questions after their AI helper unexpectedly breaks down. A24 holds global rights to the film from Korea-born director Kogonada, who made a splash with his 2017 debut feature Columbus starring John Cho. Theresa Park of Per Capita Productions, who produces with Cinereach, kickstarted the project after she bought the rights to Alexander Weinstein’s short story Saying Goodbye To Yang and attached Kogonada.
Blue Bayou (US)
Dir. Justin Chon
Chon’s timely tale sees the filmmaker/actor star opposite Alicia Vikander as a Korean man in Louisiana struggling to make a better life for his family when he learns he could be deported. Focus Features snapped up the film at the virtual Cannes market last year and will release in the US on September 17. Charles D King’s Macro (Judas And The Black Messiah) and eOne financed the project. California-born Chon starred in the Twilight series and has been gaining stature as a director. His Los Angeles riots drama Gook won the audience Best of Next! award at Sundance in 2017.
Contact: Focus Features
La Civil (Bel-Rom-Mex)
Dir. Teodora Ana Mihai
Romania-born, Belgium-based Mihai travels to northern Mexico for her debut fiction feature. Inspired by true events and co-written with Mexican writer Habacuc Antonio De Rosario, La Civil follows a mother desperate to find her daughter who has been abducted by a drug cartel. Mihai previously directed documentary Waiting For August, which was nominated for a European Film Award in 2014. La Civil was developed at Cannes Cinefondation and TorinoFilmLab. Hans Everaert produces for Belgium’s Menuetto Film (Girl), and co-producers include the Dardenne brothers’ Les Films du Fleuve, Cristian Mungiu’s Mobra Films and Michel Franco’s Teorema.
Contact: Frédéric Corvez, Urban Distribution International
Commitment Hasan (Turkey)
Dir. Semih Kaplanoglu
The second in a planned trilogy of films exploring family bonds, Commitment Hasan — which follows 2019’s Commitment Asli — is the story of a man trying to make a living from his father’s fruit garden and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kaplanoglu won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear in 2010 for Honey and Tokyo’s grand prix in 2017 for Grain. Commitment Hasan is produced by the director’s own Kaplan Film.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Gessica Généus
Haitian actor/filmmaker Généus’s debut narrative feature tells of three working-class women who resolve to leave their town after a traumatic event. The film received backing from Doha Film Institute, and Généus shot it in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in 2019 and 2020. Freda was produced by Ayizan Production, which the filmmaker established after she returned from acting school in Paris, and Merveilles Production.
Contact: Faissol Gnonlonfin, Merveilles Production
Great Freedom (Austria-Ger)
Dir. Sebastian Meise
Meise played San Sebastian and then Rotterdam with debut feature Still Life (2011), while in 2012 his documentary Outingscreened at Hot Docs in Canada and Zurich. Reuniting with Still Life co-writer Thomas Reider, the Austrian filmmaker presents a drama set in post-war Germany about a man (Undine’s Franz Rogowski) imprisoned for being gay, who forms an attachment to his convicted-murderer cellmate (Georg Friedrich). Austria’s FreibeuterFilm produces with Germany’s Rohfilm Productions. Filmladen Filmverleih releases in Austria and Piffl Medien in Germany.
Contact: The Match Factory
House Arrest (Rus-Ger-Can)
Dir. Aleksey German Jr
Following Venice bows for his first three features, and Berlin premieres for 2015’s Under Electric Clouds and 2018’s Dovlatov(winning a Silver Bear with the latter), Russia’s German Jr makes his Cannes debut with a drama about a professor who takes to social media to criticise his Russian city’s administration and soon finds himself accused of embezzlement and placed under house arrest. The film is produced by Artem Vasilyev’s Moscow-based Metrafilms with Germany’s LM Media and Canada’s Outrageous Film as co-producers.
Contact: mk2 Films
The Innocents (Nor-Swe-Fin-Den-Fr)
Dir. Eskil Vogt
Vogt has a doubleheader at Cannes — he is also co-writer of his frequent collaborator Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World, which is in Competition. The Norwegian filmmaker’s second feature as a director after 2014 Sundance award winner Blind is a supernatural thriller that sees the innocent play of four children turn into something else when they harness special powers. Maria Ekerhovd produces for MER Film, which will also release in Norway. Actress Ellen Dorrit Petersen (Blind) reteams with the director, and her daughter Rakel Lenora Flottum takes the lead role as nine-year-old Ida.
Contact: Protagonist Pictures
Dir. Valdimar Johannsson
This Icelandic supernatural drama stars Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason as a couple living on a remote farm who adopt a mysterious newborn child — half-human, half-sheep — to raise as their own. First-time feature director Johannsson co-wrote the script with acclaimed Icelandic author and poet Sjón, who also worked with Robert Eggers on his upcoming The Northman. The film’s executive producers include Bela Tarr. New Europe has already sold Lamb to territories including France (The Jokers), Germany (Koch Films), Benelux (The Searchers) and Denmark (Camera Film).
Contact: Jan Naszewski, New Europe Film Sales
Let There Be Morning (Isr)
Dir. Eran Kolirin
Israeli filmmaker Kolirin returns to Un Certain Regard having previously screened his debut feature The Band’s Visit and third film Beyond The Mountains And Hills in the sidebar in 2007 and 2016 respectively. For his fourth feature, Kolirin adapts Palestinian writer and journalist Sayed Kashua’s 2006 novel Let It Be Morning. It follows a Palestinian man with Israeli citizenship who believes himself to be assimilated into Israeli society until he is caught up in an army blockade while attending a wedding in his native village. Kashua’s 2002 debut novel Dancing Arabs was likewise adapted for the big screen, by Eran Riklis in 2014
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. CB Yi
China-born, Austria-based Yi makes his Cannes debut with a filmed-in-Taiwan LGBTQ+ drama about a young man working as a rent boy and torn between traditional values and rampant capitalism. The cast includes Kai Ko, Chloe Maayan and JC Lin. The project was backed by Arte France Cinema, Taipei Film Commission and La Cie Cinematographique with support from the Austrian National Film Fund and Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture. Yi studied directing with Michael Haneke and photography with Christian Berger at the Vienna Film Academy.
Contact: Totem Films
My Brothers And I (Fr)
Dir. Yohan Manca
Short filmmaker Manca’s feature debut follows a 14-year-old boy who strikes up a friendship with a young opera singer during one stifling summer. Produced by France’s Single Man Productions, which also has Samuel Benchetrit’s Love Songs For Tough Guys playing in Cannes Premiere, My Brothers And I was supported by France’s National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC) via its Images de la diversité fund. Ad Vitam will distribute in France.
Contact: Jean-Félix Dealberto, Charades
Dir. Hafsia Herzi
French actress/director Herzi’s second feature revolves around a cleaner in her 50s living in a housing estate in Marseille who stands by her son as he awaits trial on robbery charges. Herzi broke into cinema in Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2007 Couscous and now has around 50 acting credits to her name. Her directing debut You Deserve A Lover, in which she starred as a woman trying to get over a problematic relationship, premiered in Critics’ Week in 2019. Halima Benhamed makes her big-screen debut in the title role.
Contact: SBS International
Onoda — 10 000 Nights In The Jungle (Fr-It-Bel-Jap-Ger-Camb)
Dir. Arthur Harari
France’s Harari makes his Cannes debut with his second feature, following 2016’s Dark Inclusion, which netted a César nomination for best first film and Niels Schneider the César for most promising actor. Shot in Japanese, this international co-production tells the story of Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who ignored news of Japan’s Second World War defeat and held out in the Philippines jungle until 1974. Harari co-writes with Vincent Poymiro (Dark Inclusion, French TV series En Thérapie). Nicolas Anthomé produces for his own Bathysphere Productions, alongside To Be Continued and in co-production with eight other partners.
Contact: Camille Neel, Le Pacte
Dir. Laura Wandel
Seven years after bringing Foreign Bodies (Les Corps Etrangers) to Cannes’ shorts competition, Belgium’s Wandel now presents her debut feature. Playground follows new primary school student Nora who discovers her brother is a victim of bullying and is billed as “an immersive dive, at child’s height, into the world of school”. Titled Un Monde in French-speaking markets, Wandel’s film is produced by Dragon Films and co-produced by Lunanime.
Contact: Indie Sales
Prayers For The Stolen (Mex-Ger-Bra-Qat)
Dir. Tatiana Huezo
Mexico-based, El Salvador-born Huezo has established herself on the festival circuit mostly through documentary shorts as an unflinching chronicler of women’s response to violence in Latin America. She stepped up to features with her 2016 Berlinale documentary Tempestad (selected by Mexico as its 2018 foreign-language Oscar contender). Huezo now presents her narrative feature debut, which came through Morelia/Sundance Story Lab and portrays life in a town at war seen through the eyes of three pre-adolescent girls. Pimienta Films, run by Nicolas Celis (Roma), is lead producer.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Saad’s second film is the first from Bangladesh in Cannes’ official selection. The story follows the title character, an assistant professor who seeks justice for one of her medical students and her six-year-old daughter in a patriarchal society. The project was a recipient of Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund and Doha Film Institute’s post-production grant. Saad’s debut feature Live From Dhaka won best director and actor prizes at Singapore International Film Festival in 2016, and went on to screen at festivals including Rotterdam and Locarno.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Na Jiazuo
Executive produced by The Eight Hundred director Guan Hu, Na’s debut feature is set in the early 2000s revolving around a group of impoverished young men who stay behind in their small town, rather than following the usual path and moving to a big city for work. The project won prizes from both Shanghai Film Festival’s project market and Pingyao festival’s WiP lab. The film was first announced by the festival under the title Gaey Wa’r — seemingly a local dialect version of the Mandarin title Jiē wá er, which roughly translates as ‘street kids’.
Contact: Sebastien Chesneau, Cercamon
Unclenching The Fists (Rus)
Dir. Kira Kovalenko
Russia’s Kovalenko made her debut in 2016 with Tallinn Black Nights premiere Sofichka, and now presents her follow-up. The film follows traumatic events when a father moves his three children to the small North Ossetia mining town of Mizur, but his two elder offspring soon aim to escape his suffocating presence. Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov — who together produced Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Elena, Leviathan and Loveless, as well as Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole — produce.
Contact: Antoine Guilhem, Wild Bunch International
Women Do Cry (Bul-Fr)
Dirs. Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova
Continuing the collaboration between animator/filmmaker Mileva and actress/filmmaker Kazakova (an EFP Shooting Star at Berlin in 2006), Women Do Cry is the second feature the pair have co-directed, alongside several shorts and documentaries. Their film Cat In The Wall premiered in Locarno’s main competition in 2019. Women Do Cry, which is based on a true story, follows an unconventional family of women in Bulgaria at a time when the country is being shaken by anti-equality protests.
Contact: mk2 Films
Cannes profiles by Nikki Baughan, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, Elaine Guerini, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Jean Noh, Jonathan Romney, Michael Rosser, Silvia Wong