New faces pose for Camera d'Or

Elkabetz siblings kick things off with 'Les Sept Jours'

PARIS -- Israeli brother-sister powerhouse Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz will kick off nine days of Critics Week screenings with their Franco-Israeli co-production "Les Sept Jours" (The Seven Days), organizers were set to reveal Thursday.

The sidebar -- entering its 47th year -- will welcome fresh faces, with four of the seven films competing for the Camera d'Or marking first-time feature efforts. However, no films from North America or Asia made the cut.

"The big trend this year is young European directors," artistic director Jean-Christophe Berjon told The Hollywood Reporter.

Among the young helmers on hand will be Christophe Van Rompaey, who will present his first feature, "Moscow, Belgium," a Flemish-language romantic comedy about a separated couple.

"Romantic comedies aren't really in the Cannes style, but it's a very profound film with humor, freshness and a more realistic romanticism," Berjon said.

"The Stranger in Me," the second film from German director Emily Atef, is a portrait of a woman who struggles to accept her newborn baby.

Despite a notable U.K. absence from the official competition, Critics Week will see to it that the Union Jack flies on the Croisette, with Duane Hopkins' British film "Better Things" set to screen in the sidebar. The story about U.K. youth in a rural community is the helmer's first feature.

"Even though we always aim for diversity, there were continents where we saw no feasible solutions this year. We'll have to say there are no films representing Asia," Berjon said.

However, South American entries proved prolific, with Mexican Rodrigo Pla's "Desierto Adentro" set to close Critics Week, preceded by Franco-Mexican short "Beyond the Mexican Bay," from Jean-Marc Rousseau.

Argentinian director Pablo Fendrik will be back at Critics Week with his second feature, "La Sangre Brota," after showing "El Asaltante" last year.

"It's rare that we accept the same director two years in a row, but this film has such an energy and spontaneity and shows Fendrik's enormous potential. There's a sense of urgency in everything he films," Berjon said.

While South America is well-represented, North American fare failed to move sidebar selectors. "The only interesting things from the U.S. we saw this year were already taken by Sundance," Berjon said.

And while big names from French cinema were notably absent from this year's official selection, Anna Novion's "Les Grandes Personnes" (The Big People) will represent Gaul in the Critics Week competition.

Aida Begic's first feature, Franco-Bosnian co-production "Snow," will add a bit more Gallic flavor to the lineup, while first-time filmmaker Valeria Gaia Germanica will represent Russia with "Everybody Dies but Me."

The sidebar will focus more on short films this year, with one screening before every feature shown in the selection. Berjon said he's doing this "because otherwise nobody would go to see the shorts on their own."

Opener "Les Sept Jours" will be preceded by short film Caetano Gotardo's "Areia" from Brazil.

"Jours," the second in a trilogy, tells the story of a family forced to reunite to mourn for their recently deceased uncle. "It's a film with a profound elegance. It's a devastating movie, but it also has an almost burlesque side to it," Berjon said.

Special screenings this year include Belgian feature "Rumba," from Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, and two Mexican titles: Fernando Eimbcke's "Lake Tahoe" and Lucia Gaja's "Mi Vida Dentro."

The Critics Week sidebar will run May 15-23 in Cannes.