Entering its 39th year of existence, parallel sidebar Un Certain Regard once more sports a mixture of intriguing newcomers alongside noted auteurs in the 2017 edition. Each year, the sidebar represents a sort of litmus test, considered to be a run-off for selections which, for whatever reason, do not make Thierry Fremaux’s cut in the main competition. Common parlance often involves some connotation of the word ‘downgrade,’ while for others seems to be a holding pattern from which certain auteurs have yet to break (Jessica Hausner, for instance, and until this year, Ruben Ostlund). Fremaux typically features a wider range of women filmmakers in this sidebar (2017 has three in the main comp this year, Naomi Kawase, Lynne Ramsay, and Sofia Coppola), of which there are six in this program.
Rarities are past Palme d’Or winners who premiere in Un Certain Regard, like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose superb 2015 film Cemetery of Splendor was buttonholed here after winning the top prize in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. This year sees another example of this with Laurent Cantet’s The Workshop, who nabbed the Palme in 2008 for The Class. Some other surprise entries are Michel Franco with April’s Daughter, who was invited to the main comp in 2015 with Chronic (which even took home a Best Screenplay award).
Other past comp laureates are Kiyoshi Kurosawa, last in the main comp in 2002 with Bright Future), but who has taken an award each time he’s been programmed in Un Certain Regard (2000’s Seance; 2008’s Tokyo Sonata; 2015’s Journey to the Shore). And then Mathieu Amalric, who won Best Director in the main comp in 2010 for On Tour, returns to UCR once more (where 2014’s The Blue Room played), this time opening the sidebar with Barbara. And Iran’s Mohammed Rasoulof returns for the third time with Dregs, after premiering here in 2011 with Goodbye and 2013 with Manuscripts Don’t Burn.
Several new faces of note to UCR include Taylor Sheridan with his debut Wind River, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, while Argentina’s Santiago Mitre brings his star studded The Summit here, having won top prize at the 2015 Critics’ Week for Paulina. This year’s selection is also a strong turnout for New East directors, with Russia’s Kantemir Balagov’s debut Closeness, Bulgaria’s Stephan Komandarev with Directions, and Slovakia’s Gyorgy Kristof with his debut Out.
The sidebar also includes the sole Chinese entry Walking Past the Future from Li Ruijun, and German entry Western from Valeska Grisebach, while Kaouther Ben Hani makes her first entry at Cannes with Beauty and the Dogs. Italian entries are in short supply across the board on the Croisette this year, but Sergio Castellitto returns to the UCR for the first time since 2004’s Don’t Move with his sixth feature, Lucky. Several others are presenting debuts, including Leonor Seraille (Jeune Femme), Annarita Zambrano (After the War), Karim Moussaoui (Until the Bird Returns), and Cecilia Atan and Valeria Pivato with their highly anticipated The Desert Bride starring Paulina Garcia.
Here’s our top three most anticipated titles premiering in the 2017 Un Certain Regard.
3. Closeness – Dir. Kantemir Balagov
Rumored to have been strongly considered as a competition entry, Russian director Kantemir Balagov’s directorial debut Closeness is set in 1998, Nalchik (a city occupied by the Nazis during WWII), where a Jewish family receives a ransom note when a new bride and groom disappear after their wedding. Since the ransom is steep, the family is forced to sell their business and eventually resort to other avenues of assistance. 2017 promises to yield an exciting crop of Russian language cinema, as Balagov premieres in the fest alongside new titles from Sergei Loznitsa and Andrey Zvyagintsev.
2. Western – Dir. Valeska Grisebach
It’s been a long time coming (her 2006 debut Longing premiered in Berlin), but German director Valeska Grisebach, who served as a script consultant on Toni Erdmann, is back with sophomore feature Western. While Longing was a brooding, conflicted romance featuring non-professional actors (and not unlike the earlier films of Bruno Dumont), her latest, which concerns a group of German construction workers whose latest job leads them to a showdown with Bulgarians on a remote job site, promises to be an ambitious social drama.
1. Before We Vanish – Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Perennial favorite Kiyoshi Kurosawa had a particularly strong 2016 with Berlin premiered Creepy (among one of the Japanese auteur’s best) and TIFF Platform premiere Daguerrotype, a stylized, classic ghost story which was also his French language debut. Weaving pronounced genre elements into most of his films, his latest, Before We Vanish, focuses on three aliens who travel to earth in preparation for a mass invasion.