Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Boss Previews Lineup, Explains What Makes the Sidebar Special

Marc Schmidt
Sean Baker's 'The Florida Project.'

Former film critic Edouard Waintrop discusses the program of his sixth year in charge, including veteran auteurs, emerging talents and the pleasures of a good thriller.

In his sixth year at the helm of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, former Liberation film critic Edouard Waintrop has seen his sidebar expand impressively on two fronts.

On one hand, the Quinzaine des Realisateurs (as it’s called in French) has grown under Waintrop's reign into a launching pad for emerging talents in the world of genre filmmaking, with directors like Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room), Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are, Cold In July) and Ben Wheatley (Sightseers) premiering some of their earliest work there before moving on to bigger projects.

On the other hand, the Fortnight has transformed into a showcase for confirmed auteurs who, for various reasons, have opted to screen their films in the sidebar instead of the illustrious Official Selection. Bruno Dumont, Marco Bellocchio, Arnaud Desplechin, Joachim Lafosse, Philippe Garrel, John Boorman, Frederick Wiseman, and this year Claire Denis, Abel Ferrara and Amos Gitai can be counted among the major directors premiering their new movies at the Quinzaine’s public-friendly Theatre Croisette rather than in the stuffy red-carpet atmosphere of the Palais des Festivals.

"The Fortnight audience is made up largely of cinephiles, instead of just movie professionals who want to show they’re smarter than everyone else," Waintrop told THR from his headquarters in a building off the Canal St. Martin in northeast Paris.

Filmmakers such as the Italian veteran Bellocchio, who opened the 2016 edition with his last feature, Sweet Dreams, "really appreciate the direct contact and warm reception they get from the public, which is what makes the Fortnight so unique."

2017 promises to be another banner year for the sidebar, with critical darling Denis’ unexpected relationship comedy Un beau soleil interieur, starring Juliette Binoche and Gerard Depardieu, kicking off a program of 19 features and 10 shorts.

"I think a lot of people will be surprised by the Denis film," said Waintrop. "It has this funny and very ferocious sense of humor, but it’s also extremely profound in what it says about the solitude of a woman who wants to control her own destiny."

Denis will be joined by fellow Gallic auteur Dumont, who screened his cultish TV miniseries Lil’ Quinquin at the Fortnight in 2014 and then played the official competition last year with period comedy Slack Bay. Now he’s back at the Quinzaine with his first musical, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, adapted from the 1910 play by Charles Peguy and starring a cast of complete unknowns.

The two French veterans will highlight a 2017 program that features several Cannes first-timers, including a handful of rising talents from the U.S. and Italy.

In fact, Waintrop has always kept an eye out for American indies, attending the Sundance Film Festival nearly every year to pick a few movies worth screening in his sidebar. This year, the Fortnight will feature four U.S. indies, including Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott’s politicized Sundance thriller Bushwick, which will fill the genre slot occupied in the past by the likes of Saulnier and Mickle.

"The film offers a witty and action-packed take on the divide currently separating the America of the coasts from middle America," commented Waintrop. "When you're watching it, you can feel the kind of dread that certain New Yorkers were feeling a year before [Donald] Trump even took office."

Bushwick will be joined by the show-stopping Sundance hit Patti Cake$, which will close the sidebar, and by world premieres of two new U.S. titles: The Rider by Chloe Zhao, who previously screened Songs My Brothers Taught Me in the Fortnight, and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, following his micro-budgeted breakout Tangerine.

Waintrop sees the latter two titles, both of which were shot with small crews and feature several unprofessional cast members, as part of a growing trend in world cinema that resembles the works of Italian Neorealism made in the 1940s and '50s.

"I think the ability to shoot with lighter and cheaper equipment has pushed young filmmakers to seek a more direct line to the truth, both in their storytelling and in their choice of cast. They are constantly looking for new faces," Waintrop explained.

Indeed, the Italians themselves are back in full force at the Fortnight with three new films: Roberto De Paolis’ Cuori Puri, Leonardo Di Costanzo’s L’intrusa and Italian-American director Jonas Carpignano’s second feature, A Ciambra, which was shot entirely on location with a skeleton crew at a gypsy settlement in southern Italy.

The latter in many ways embodies the type of Neorealist fare that Waintrop has seen emerge in his years heading up the Fortnight.

"Carpignano completely plunges you into an unknown world of real people. The same goes for Sean Baker. And in a different way, Bruno Dumont does something similar with the non-actors he cast in his musical comedy," said Waintrop. "It's a real gamble for a filmmaker: sometimes the results can be catastrophic, but when there’s enough talent and inspiration there, they can be magnificent."

comments powered by Disqus