One of the most rewarding things about being at the Cannes Film Festival is undoubtedly the chance to see films from all corners of the globe, films that simply don’t make it to your local cinema.
The different sections of the festival allow for excellent variety. The Main Competition offers up films from those more likely to be household names in the industry, while the Un Certain Regard is focused on newer talents. The Director’s Fortnight and The Critic’s Week strands that run parallel to the main festival showcase a number of films, carefully selected to encourage innovation in cinema and to cater to non-professional audiences.
I was in Cannes writing for Nisimazine, a publication that focuses on young filmmakers. Our main coverage was therefore the films entered into the Caméra d’Or competition – the award for the best first feature. Here are a few of the debuts I managed to catch:
Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler (Un Certain Regard)
Having already won two awards at Sundance there was a pretty big buzz around Fruitvale Station, but as the screening started, it wasn’t immediately apparent why. It’s a typical US indie film that plays with familiar content – namely, a troubled youth trying to make a change for the better. It walks the line of convention until its dramatic conclusion, but what makes Fruitvale Station so refreshing is its refusal to force sentimentality on the viewer, its respect for the audience from beginning to end.
It won the Future Award in this section.
For Those in Peril by Paul Wright (Critics’ Week)
One of the few servings of British cinema at the festival, Paul Wright’s dark and mythical film about grief and its effects proved to be a powerful and haunting experience. Set in a remote Scottish fishing village, we follow Aaron – the sole survivor of a tragic accident at sea that has killed five young men, including his brother. Overloaded with guilt, and fuelled by urban legends, Aaron sinks into severe depression, becoming obsessed with the idea of rescuing the dead.
A raw confrontation of loss and mental illness, the premise of For Those in Peril is ambitious, and it certainly isn’t an easy watch, but it absolutely works. The disjointed editing and structure support the film’s theme, and the flashes of surrealism throughout (culminating in the gripping final scene) make it refreshingly original. This is definitely one to watch.
Ilo Ilo by Anthony Chen (Director’s Fortnight)
Tackling the subject of live-in maids in Singapore households, Ilo Ilo confronts family tensions delicately and with sprinklings of humour in this accessible and stylish first feature. Following the Lim family after their recent appointment of new maid Terry, we watch relationships begin to strain as wayward child Jiale grows closer to his maid than his own mother. The film intelligently tackles localised issues in a universal manner.
Ilo Ilo won the Caméra d’Or prize for best first feature.