Both India as an independent nation and the Cannes Film Festival turn 60 this year. Cannes will celebrate the occasion by featuring seven or eight films like Guru, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Dosar at the third edition of the Programme Tout les Cinemas du Monde (Cinema of the World). The programme for this section kicks off next Saturday with a symbolic red carpet walk by the Indian delegation at the Palais du Festival. Starring in the Market section of the film festival will be two eagerly-awaited films, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Akbar Jodha and R. Balki’s Cheeni Kum.
However, just one of the 1,000 new films made in India has made it to any of the competitive sections of the festival. The exception—Chinese Whispers—is a short film by Raka Dutta, a student of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute. Her film will feature in the Cinefondation section, where works from film schools vie for three awards.
No Country for the Old is about a hunter who finds dead bodies
What we have instead is a US-rich queue of eagerly awaited films by major film-makers. There is Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men, David Fincher’s Zodiac, James Gray’s We Own the Night, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (the version with an additional 10 to 15 minute footage) and Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. These films will fight for the coveted Palm d’Or against European heavyweights Emir Kusturica’s Promise Me This, Carlos Raygada’s Silent Light, and Persepolis, the much-awaited film by French-based Iranian auteur Marjane Satrapi.
Despite the presence of big names in the line-up, some 13 directors competing for the Palm d’Or are first-timers, says the festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux. “The choice is always difficult, but this is a rich year with 22 films in the competition, chosen out of 1,600 contestants from 95 countries,” he says. Some 3,983 films, including the shorts, were submitted for consideration this year. This is 22% up from last year.
The festival boasts high-wattage star power presence this year. There will, of course, be Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. Angelina Jolie will accompany Brad Pitt, who stars in Ocean’s Thirteen and produced A Mighty Heart, both in the official selection. Singer Norah Jones, who stars in Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, which will be making its debut at Cannes, is expected to be present. Bono will hopefully arrive for the screening of the filmed concert, U2 3D. Martin Scorsese will grace the festival as a ‘professor’ with a Master Class on Cinema. Director David Cronenberg will present the Music Master Class by composer Howard Shore. A tribute to Henry Fonda will be paid in the presence of his daughter, Jane Fonda.
David Flincher’s film Zodiac is based on the life of a serial killer
But what is Cannes without its share of controversies and debate? There is the screening of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Sicko, on the American pharmaceutical industry. It has already drawn flak for reportedly featuring people who worked on the toxic debris around the site of the World Trade Center disaster. Then there is Leonardo Di Caprio’s ecological documentary on global warming, 11th Hour.
Back at the competition, other important films to look out for include Fatih Akin’s Auf Der Anderen Seite, Ulrich Seidl’s Import/Export, Romanian new-wave film-maker Cristian Mungiu’s Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, Alexander Soukhorov’s Alexandra and The Banishment, directed by last year’s Venice top award winner Andrei Zvyaginstev.
The three Asian titles to be featured in the competition are The Forest of Magari, by the Japanese Camera d’Or winner Naomi Kawase; Secret Sunshine by Korea’s Lee Chang-Dong and Breath by Kim-Ki Duk.
One of the most promising and trend-setting sections of the Cannes festival is L’Atelier, wherein 15 promising projects from 15 different countries are selected by the Cinefondation. Their directors and producers, who are chosen on the basis of their previous works, are offered avenues for international finance.
The Cannes Film Festival will be held from 16 May to 27 May.
Sunil Doshi is a film producer and a regular at Cannes.
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