From debut feature directors to seasoned veterans, Screen looks ahead to the films most likely to tempt international festival directors in 2016

La La Land_starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling


20th Century Women
Dir Mike Mills

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig star in this Santa Barbara-set drama about three women growing up in 1979 California. The film-maker’s last film, 2010’s Beginners, earned Christopher Plummer an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Annapurna Pictures’ Megan Ellison produces with Anne Carey and Youree Henley.

The Bad Batch
Dir Ana Lily Amirpour

The Iranian-American director’s debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was one of the sensations of the 2014 festival circuit. Amirpour is now editing her second feature The Bad Batch, a dystopian love story set in a Texas wasteland among a community of cannibals. Also backed by Annapurna Pictures, the film’s eclectic cast features Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna and Jim Carrey. 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Dir Ang Lee

Simon Beaufoy adapted Ben Fountain’s novel of the same name for Lee to direct. It is about an Iraq war veteran who survives a battle filmed by news cameras and returns to the US for an army promotional tour. Screen Star of Tomorrow Joe Alwyn stars alongside Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund. Sony has worldwide rights. 

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Of Cambodia Remembers
Dir Angelina Jolie Pitt

Jolie Pitt has adapted the memoir of human-rights activist Loung Ung, a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia in the late 1970s during the time of the ruling Khmer Rouge. The drama is being made as a Netflix Original to be screened later this year. Jolie Pitt is also producer on the film, along with renowned Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh. 

Hail, Caesar!
Dirs Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The Coens’ Berlinale opener boasts an all-star cast of George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum. Set during the halcyon days of the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s, Hail, Caesar! is centred on a studio fixer’s search for a movie star who has disappeared. Produced by the Coens with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner through Mike Zoss Productions and Working Title Films, Hail, Caesar! will be released worldwide by Universal. 

La La Land
Dir Damien Chazelle

JK Simmons, who won an Oscar for his turn as a sociopathic jazz teacher in Chazelle’s debut feature Whiplash, is tuning up for the film-maker’s follow-up. Simmons joins Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in this tale of a jazz pianist who falls for a wannabe actress in the city of angels. Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno and Callie Hernandez also star. Lionsgate has US rights. 

Midnight Special
Dir Jeff Nichols

Adam Driver, now known to millions as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, turns his considerable acting chops to this sci-fi thriller about a man on the run from both the US government and extremists who are hunting down his son who is said to possess special powers. Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard and Joel Edgerton co-star in the fourth film from the director of Mud and Take Shelter. Warner Bros is releasing. 

Dir Oliver Stone

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley star in the first narrative film to take on the tale of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on two books: The Snowden Files by The Guardian journalist Luke Harding and Time Of The Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans and Joely Richardson co-star. Open Road Films has US rights. 

Untitled Terrence Malick project 
Dir Terrence Malick 

Malick filmed Val Kilmer wielding a prop chainsaw to destroy an amp before using a bowie knife to cut off clumps of his own hair during a real festival gig for garage band Black Lips in Austin, Texas in 2012 for his untitled music-scene film. The cast also features Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara. FilmNation has international rights. 

Zero Day 
Dir Alex Gibney 

Oscar-winning documentary film-maker Gibney has turned his critical eye on hacking and cyber security in this feature about the battle between online criminals and white-hat hackers who try to stop them. Zero Day will have its world premiere at the Berlinale.


American Honey
Dir Andrea Arnold 

Arnold’s much-anticipated fourth feature is a coming-of-age drama set in the US and starring a cast of newcomers. Sasha Lane plays Star, a teenage girl who joins a travelling magazine sales crew and is caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love. Shia LaBeouf co-stars in the film, which is written by Arnold and produced by New York film-makers Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen’s Parts & Labor with the UK’s Pulse Films and Film4. Protagonist is handling international sales. 

City Of Tiny Lights 
Dir Pete Travis 

This London-set noir thriller is an adaptation of Patrick Neate’s novel of the same name. It stars Riz Ahmed as a private detective hired by a high-class prostitute, played by Cush Jumbo, to find her missing friend. City Of Tiny Lights is produced by NDF International, Sixteen Films, the BFI and BBC Films with Protagonist handling sales. 

Free Fire 
Dir Ben Wheatley 

The prolific Wheatley follows up 2015 festival hit High-Rise with this crime thriller set in 1970s Boston. It stars Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley and Sharlto Copley and is produced by Rook Films, Film4, the BFI and Studiocanal. Martin Scorsese acts as executive producer and Protagonist has sales rights. 

How To Talk To Girls At Parties
Dir John Cameron Mitchell 

The new film from the director of Hedwig And The Angry Inch stars Nicole Kidman and Ruth Wilson and is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman. It is about an alien who alights on one of the most dangerous corners of the galaxy: Croydon in south London. See-Saw Pictures and Studiocanal are producing the film, which is sold by HanWay. 

I, Daniel Blake 
Dir Ken Loach

Palme d’Or winner Loach and his regular collaborator, writer Paul Laverty, reteam for this film, set in Newcastle, north-east England, about a joiner who befriends a woman and her two young children. I, Daniel Blake is produced by Sixteen Films with France’s Why Not Productions, with backing from the BFI and BBC Films. Wild Bunch is handling sales. 

The Sense Of An Ending
Dir Ritesh Batra

Batra’s second film following his acclaimed feature debut The Lunchbox is an English-language drama based on Julian Barnes’ novel about a reclusive man facing secrets from his past. Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter and Emily Mortimer star in the film, which is produced by Origin Pictures and BBC Films with FilmNation handling sales. 

Their Finest Hour And A Half
Dir Lone Scherfig

This romantic comedy set during the Second World War is based on Lissa Evans’ novel and stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy. It is produced by BBC Films, Number 9 Films and Wildgaze Films, with sales agent HanWay Films eyeing a late 2016 launch. 

A Quiet Passion
Dir Terence Davies

Cynthia Nixon stars as acclaimed US modernist poet Emily Dickinson in this drama co-starring Jennifer Ehle and Keith Carradine. A Quiet Passion is produced by Sol Papadopoulos and Roy Boulter of the UK’s Hurricane Films with Peter De Maegd and Tom Hameeuw of Belgium’s Potemkino. Metrodome has UK rights and Double Dutch International is handling sales. 

A Storm In The Stars
Dir Haifaa Al-Mansoor

Elle Fanning plays Mary Shelley and Douglas Booth is Percy Shelley in this unconventional biopic written by Emma Jensen and directed by the pioneering female Saudi film-maker Al-Mansoor. Bel Powley co-stars in the film, which is produced by Parallel Films and sold by HanWay Films. It starts shooting at the end of January so could be ready for a late 2016 premiere. 

A United Kingdom
Dir Amma Asante

This period drama starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo is set in the UK and Botswana and is an adaptation by Guy Hibbert of Susan Williams’ novel Colour Bar. Based on a true story, it tells of the 1947 love affair between Seretse Khama, the king of Botswana, and London office worker Ruth Williams. The film, now in post-production, is produced by Pathé, BBC Films, the BFI and Ingenious, with Pathé International handling sales.

Untitled Donald Crowhurst project
Dir James Marsh

Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz star in this biopic of the amateur sailor who tried to navigate around the world in 1968. The film is produced by Blueprint Pictures, BBC Films and Galatee, and is sold by Studiocanal. 

Viceroy’s House
Dir Gurinder Chadha

Chadha’s period drama is set in India in 1947 as the UK is charged with handing India back to its people. Gillian Anderson and Hugh Bonneville star as Lady and Lord Mountbatten. Michael Gambon and Om Puri co-star. Shot in Jaipur, the film was written by Chadha, with Paul Mayeda Berges and Moira Buffini, and produced by Pathé, BBC Films, the BFI and India’s Reliance. Pathé is selling. 

War On Everyone 
Dir John Michael McDonagh

Heading for the Berlinale’s Panorama section, this black comedy is about two corrupt cops in New Mexico and stars Alexander Skarsgard, Theo James, Michael Peña and Tessa Thompson. It is produced by Reprisal Films, the BFI and Headgear Films, and is being sold by Bankside Films. 


A Hologram For The King 
Dir Tom Tykwer

Tykwer reunites with Tom Hanks after Cloud Atlas for another literary adaptation, Dave Eggers’ A Hologram For The King. Hanks plays a struggling US businessman who mounts a plan for personal and financial salvation in a Saudi Arabian city. Lotus Entertainment is selling. 

Toni Erdmann
Dir Maren Ade

Ade’s first film since 2009’s Everyone Else is set in Romania as a man pays an unannounced visit to his daughter, who works in Bucharest as a management consultant. Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller star in the film, which sees the father try to restore a sense of humour to his daughter. The Match Factory has international rights. 

Why We Took the Car 
Dir Fatih Akin

Newcomer Anand Batbileg stars in Akin’s adaptation of the bestselling cult novel Why We Took The Car (Tschick) by the late Wolfgang Herrn­dorf. The film is about two teenage outsiders who strike up a friendship, setting out in a stolen Lada on an unforgettable trip through provincial Germany. Studiocanal has international rights. 

Eastern Europe

Family Photos
Dir Cristian Mungiu

Romanian director Mungiu’s first film since his 2012 Cannes Competition title Beyond The Hills sees him inspired by events in his own life and the challenges of fatherhood. Adrian Titieni stars as a doctor in a provincial Romanian town. Wild Bunch is selling. 

Game Count
Dir Agnieszka Holland

The veteran Polish director returns to the big screen with an adaptation of Olga Tokarczuk’s provocative novel Drive Your Plough Over The Bones Of The Dead about an older woman taking revenge on a group of hunters. Holland describes the “crazy, contemporary story” as “something between a black comedy and a thriller”. Studio Filmowe is selling. 

Dir Alexey Uchitel

The love affair between the ballerina Mathilda Kschessinskaya and the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II is at the centre of this lavish $25m historical drama, which was shot at many original locations throughout Moscow and St Petersburg. Germany’s Lars Eidinger and Russia’s Danila Kozlovsky star. Rock Films has international rights. 


News From Planet Mars
Dir Dominik Moll

In his first feature for five years, Moll’s News From Planet Mars returns to the black comedy of his 2000 Palme d’Or contender With A Friend Like Harry… after mystery thrillers The Monk and Lemming. Francois Damiens stars as Philippe Mars, a recently divorced man struggling to cope with a larger-than-life family, demanding boss and occasionally psychotic colleague who decides to move in, sending his life into a further tailspin. Memento is handling international sales. 

Dir Rebecca Zlotowski 

Set in Paris in the 1930s, this English-language thriller co-stars Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as sisters who are believed to possess supernatural powers. It is Zlotowski’s third film after Belle Epine, which premiered in Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2011, and Grand Central, which was unveiled in Un Certain Regard in 2013. Kinology handles international rights.

Road To Istanbul
Dir Rachid Bouchareb

Elle Driver is handling this timely drama about a mother who goes in search of her 18-year-old daughter after she leaves Belgium to join Islamic extremists. It is the second film from the Franco-Algerian director to explore the impact of extremism on individuals after London River. Bouchareb spoke to parents who had lost children to Islamic State, and co-wrote the screenplay with collaborators Zoé Galeron and Olivier Lorelle and Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra.

Saint Amour
Dirs Benoit Delépine, Gustave Kervern

Directorial duo Delépine and Kervern — whose stock in trade is off-the-wall comedy with a slightly anarchic twist — reunite with Gérard Depardieu and Benoit Poelvoorde for a light-hearted tale about a farmer and his son who bond and find love on a wine tour. Le Pacte is selling. 

Slack Bay
Dir Bruno Dumont

Starring an ensemble cast featuring Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, this 1910-set dark comedy revolves around an investigation by inspectors Machin and Malfoy into a series of disappearances on the beaches of Slack Bay in northern France. Intertwined with the enquiry is a love affair between the son of a fishing clan and the mischievous daughter of a decadent bourgeois family. Celluloid Dreams has worldwide rights. 

The Woman In The Silver Plate
Dir Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Olivier Gourmet stars as Stéphane, a recently widowed former fashion photographer who is obsessed with a 19th-century photography technique he believes gives eternal life to the people it captures. Tahar Rahim co-stars as his assistant, a troubled young man who falls for Stéphane’s daughter and muse. Shot in Paris in spring 2015, The Woman In The Silver Plate is Japanese director Kurosawa’s first French production. It is being handled by Celluloid Dreams. 


Dir Pedro Almodovar 

Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte star as, respectively, the adult and young Julieta, a teacher who wants to get back in touch with her daughter to explain secrets she has kept for the past 30 years. Scheduled to be released locally in March by Warner Bros Spain, Sony Pictures Classics has US rights with international handled by FilmNation. 

A Monster Calls 
Dir Juan Antonio Bayona

After The Orphanage and The Impossible, A Monster Calls closes Bayona’s trilogy exploring motherhood. Patrick Ness has adapted his novel about a boy who seeks refuge in a fantasy world to deal with bullying and his mother’s illness. The English-language film stars Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Lewis MacDougall, and is a Spain-US co-production between Apaches Entertainment with Telecinco Cinema, Peliculas La Trini, Participant Media, River Road Entertainment and Lionsgate. The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures International in Spain and by Focus in the US. Lionsgate International is handling international sales.


Dir Daniele Vicari

After the success of Diaz — Don’t Clean Up This Blood, Vicari is now close to ending production of Bianco. The film is based on real events that led to the conquering of Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc by Italian climber and explorer Walter Bonatti. Elio Germano stars in the Italy-France co-production. 

The Centre Of The World
Dir Kim Rossi Stuart

The Centre Of The World (Il Centro Del Mondo) is the second feature to be directed by leading Italian actor Rossi Stuart following 2006’s Libero. Little is known about the film except that it stars Jasmine Trinca, whose credits include Honey and The Son’s Room, and is produced by Palomar. 


Dirs Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

The Dardennes’ latest stars Les Combattants’ Adele Haenel as a young doctor who feels guilty for not opening the door of her practice to a girl who is found dead shortly after. On learning from the police that the girl’s identity is unknown, she decides to discover more about her. Wild Bunch is handling sales.

Nordic region

The Commune
Dir Thomas Vinterberg

The Commune is Vinterberg’s most personal film yet, partly inspired by his own childhood in a communal house. The Danish director reunites with his Festen actors Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen, who star as a professional couple whose relationship is strained when Dyrholm learns she is replaceable in the relationship. Meanwhile their daughter (Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen) discovers first love. Tobias Lindholm, Vinterberg’s collaborator on The Hunt, co-wrote the script. 

The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki
Dir Juho Kuosmanen

Finnish director Kuosmanen won the Cinefondation award at Cannes in 2010 with his short The Painting Sellers. His feature debut is about a boxer in the 1960s who is anxious about competing in the world championship, and would rather spend time with a woman he just met. Jussi Rantamaki produces for Aamu and Germany’s One Two Films co-produces.

Dir Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson 

Gudmundsson’s debut feature Heartstone was developed at Cannes’ Cinefondation after he was given a special mention in Cannes’ Short Film Competition 2013 for Whale Valley. Heartstone is about two boys: one pursues his first girlfriend, the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend. The film shot in a small fishing village on the east coast of Iceland in autumn 2015 and is now in post.

Dir Gabriela Pichler

Pichler’s Eat Sleep Die was a Venice prize-winner in 2012 and Sweden’s Oscar submission, and expectations are high for her sophomore feature. Garagefilm produces and, as with her first feature, Pichler is working with first-time actors. Acclaimed author Jonas Hassen Khemiri co-wrote the script with the director. Plot details are under wraps but Khemiri and Pichler have said: “This project started with a shared interest in the link between images and power structures. We look at the camera as a weapon — perhaps with limited battery life but with tons of ammunition.”

The Neon Demon
Dir Nicolas Winding Refn

The Neon Demon shows the Drive director return to fertile ground in Los Angeles, where an aspiring model (Elle Fanning) is devoured by looks-obsessed women. The horror film’s starry cast also includes Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves and Christina Hendricks. Gaumont and Wild Bunch co-financed and co-handle sales; Amazon Studios has snapped up US rights. 

The Oath
Dir Baltasar Kormakur

Fresh from global hit Everest, Kormakur returns to Icelandic-language film-making with The Oath, in which he also stars as an ordinary father in a Reykjavik suburb who tries to save his daughter from addiction by committing the perfect crime. The film is now in production. 

Dir Erik Skjoldbjaerg

Norway’s Skjoldbjaerg, who directed Cannes Critics’ Week selection Insomnia and Toronto selection Pioneer, returns with this story of a peaceful village panicked when one of their own turns out to be an arsonist. TrustNordisk handles international sales. Bjorn Olaf Johannessen wrote the script based on Gaute Heivoll’s novel. The project took part in the 2014 Berlin Co-Production Market.

You Disappear
Dir Peter Schonau Fog

The powerhouse cast of Trine Dyrholm, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Michael Nyqvist star in the new film from Sweden’s Schonau Fog (The Art Of Crying). Zentropa’s Louise Vesth produces. It marks the first film adaptation from popular novelist Christian Jungersen, based on his novel about a woman fighting to save her family when her husband is arrested for fraud after a brain tumour changes his personality. The film shot in Mallorca, Denmark and Sweden. TrustNordisk handles sales.

Australia and New Zealand

Berlin Syndrome
Dir Cate Shortland

A European fling takes a dark turn as a photojournalist, played by Teresa Palmer, wakes up alone in her lover’s apartment, unable to leave. Berlin Syndrome is Shortland’s third feature, after Somersault and Lore, from an adapted screenplay by Shaun Grant, whose credits include Snowtown. The Aquarius Films production was backed by Screen Australia and state agencies, with eOne and Memento attached. 

Hunt For The Wilderpeople 
Dir Taika Waititi

Waititi wrote and directed this adventure buddy comedy in which a portly city kid, played by Julian Dennison, is forced to spend time with his grumpy foster uncle, played by Sam Neill. The wayward pair spark a national manhunt and must work together to outsmart the authorities and survive in the wilds of New Zealand. It is premiering at Sundance for sales agent Protagonist Pictures.

Dir Garth Davis

Nicole Kidman plays the adoptive mother of Saroo Brierley, played by Dev Patel, a Tasmania-based businessman who made international headlines when he used Google Earth to locate his Indian birth family. Lion is the debut feature of director Davis, the Bafta, Emmy and AACTA nominated co-director of TV series Top Of The Lake. The See-Saw Films and Aquarius Films production also stars Rooney Mara and David Wenham. 

Middle East

Dir Mohamed Diab

Set against the backdrop of violent demonstrations in Cairo that erupted at the end of former president Mohamed Morsi’s reign, Egyptian director Diab explores extremism through an intense drama in which two groups of opposing protestors find themselves in the same police van as fighting rages around them. It is Diab’s second feature after 678. Pyramide International is selling. 

Oppenheimer Strategies
Dir Joseph Cedar

Richard Gere stars in this contemporary drama set between New York and Jerusalem. The actor plays Norman Oppenheimer, a small-time operator who befriends a young politician. When the latter becomes an influential figure on the world stage, Oppenheimer’s life changes dramatically too. The feature marks an English-language debut for Israeli-American Cedar, whose previous works include the Oscar-nominated Beaufort and Footnote, which premiered in Competition at Cannes in 2011. Sales are handled by The Solution Entertainment Group.


The Ferryman 
Dir Zhang Jiajia

Wong Kar Wai’s Jet Tone is producing this rom-com based on Zhang’s bestseller I Belonged To You. The author has been brought on board to direct the $25m film, which stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Angelababy and Eason Chan. The Ferryman is one of the first projects to be backed by Alibaba’s new production arm, Alibaba Pictures. Mei Ah Entertainment is handling Hong Kong and several Southeast Asian territories.

Dir Johnnie To 

Produced by Media Asia and Milkyway Image, To’s crime thriller revolves around a hospital showdown involving a criminal with a bullet in his head, a policeman about to turn rogue and a surgeon from mainland China. Vicki Zhao Wei, Louis Koo and Wallace Chung head the cast of the film, which is in post-production.