Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry’s 'The We & The I' to Open Director’s Fortnight

The festival sidebar’s new artistic director Edouard Waintrop talks about the 2012 lineup and what to expect from the 44th edition.

PARIS - The Festival de Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight has given the “oui” to The We & The I with Michel Gondry’s anticipated title to open this year’s sidebar of the 65th annual festival.

The Director’s Fortnight’s new artistic director Edouard Waintrop unveiled the selection at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

Noemie Lvovsky’s Camille Redouble will close the sidebar, joining a French-accented selection heavy on comedy and politics in this year’s 44th edition of the program. The Director’s Fortnight will screen 19 feature films, including 11 world premieres and five first-time films.

“There are a lot of comedies, which is pretty new,” Waintrop told The Hollywood Reporter, adding: “We’ll laugh a lot and also cry a lot.”

The We & The I was shot in the Bronx and follows a group of high school students on a bus on the last day of school as the bus gradually empties. Kinology is handling international sales for the title.

The quirky director has already assembled a French all-star cast, including, Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris and Intouchables star Omar Sy, for his next project Mood Indigo that started shooting in April in the Paris region.

The sidebar has also reserved a night for Rodney Ascher’s documentary Room 237. The film, which premiered at Sundance, explores the hidden meanings in the film The Shining.

Gondry and Ascher’s films are the only stateside stories in selection despite stars and stripes flying across the Official Selection announced last Thursday. “There were films that tempted me, but we needed a balance with the official selection,” Waintrop said of the lack of U.S. fare.

Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers will set its sights on a special screening during the sidebar. The U.K. director will follow up his much talked-about Kill List with this story about a couple who head on their first camping trip together and get entangled in a murder plot.

Entries from France also include Bruno PolyadesAdieu Berthe, Elie Wajeman’s Aliyah, Rachid Djaidani’s Hold Back, plus animated film Ernest and Celestine, a French co-production with Belgium and Luxembourg. The title, directed by Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, features the voice of French star actor Lambert Wilson.  

“We tried to avoid having too many French films, but we needed comedy. I think it’s important to have comedy to establish balance,” Waintrop explained of the selection, adding: “The two films that aren’t comedies are very powerful and really surprised me. I didn’t pay attention to quotas.”

Polyades, who played Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 Cannes title The Conquest, co-wrote Adieu Berthe with brother Denis, and both actors also star in the story about a man dealing with the death of his grandmother alongside Valerie Lemercier, Isabelle Candelier and Michel Vuillermoz.

Lvovsky directed and stars in her closing night title opposite festival favorite Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Yolande Moreau. “It’s a pretty crazy story,” Waintrop said of the film.

While the lineup is heavy on French fare, it will also be flavored with Latin American spice.

Raoul Ruiz’ last film Noche de Enfrente will screen paying homage to the Chilean director who died last year.

“I think Raoul Ruiz knew his end was near when he was making this film. It’s a very intimate film, but made with his particular humor, his vision of the world,” Waintrop explained. “There’s a lot of surrealism. He talks about childhood, death and Chile, he didn’t want it to be sad.”

Also representing Chile will be Pablo Lorrain who will present his latest politically-charged title No. “It’s a political film and a human adventure,” Waintrop said.

From Switzerland, Nicolas Wadimoff’s Operation Libertad will have its world premiere. The sidebar will also give a royal welcome to South Korean helmer Yeun Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs.

Alo vying for the Camera d’Or will be Iranian director Massoud Bakhshi’s first film A Respectable family, Benjamin Avila’s Infancia clandestina and Colombian film La Sirga from William Vega that won the Films in Progress prize at the 21st edition of the Rencontres Cinémas d’Amérique Latine in Toulouse, jointly organized with San Sebastian Film Festival. The film follows a woman coming home from war and trying to build a new life. Uruguayan helmer Pablo Stoll Ward’s 3 and Fogo from Mexican director Yulene Olaizola’s  whose Artificial Paradises premiered at Tribeca last year, round out the lineup.

The fortnight will also be testing festgoers’ attention spans with Anurag Kashyap’s five-hour Indian film Gangs of Wasseypur.

“It’s an event,” Waintrop said of the lengthy screening, adding that “it’s a rather funny film, a lot of things happen” in the epic title that spans 40 years of life in gangs in Wasseypur.

A last-minute addition to the lineup is Chinese studio film Dangerous Liaisons from Hur Jin-Ho who premiered at the Critic’s Week sidebar 14 years ago. “The film isn’t quite finished yet so we’re trembling! But it’s a beautiful film,” said Waintrop.

In addition to Waintrop, new this year will be a series of debates focused on Indian cinema, French cinema, Latin American cinema and Franco-Arab films featuring visiting filmmakers and talents.

The sidebar will also screen 10 short films, including a new project from Rubber director Quentin Dupieux entitled “Wrong Cops.”

As previously announced, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan will receive this year’s Carousse d’Or honor.

The Director’s Fortnight sidebar has both launched the careers of and honored auteurs from across the globe, including 2012 competition helmers Ken Loach and Michael Haneke. Waintrop hopes that this year’s selection will also reveal new talents to the world with six first films and two first fiction films from former documentary filmmakers.

The Director’s Fortnight runs May 17–27.