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Top 10 New Faces & Voices from Cannes 2009

One of the more enjoyable discoveries in covering a film festival is the uncovering of new talent: whether it be behind or in front of the camera. At this year’s Cannes, I was introduced to a foursome of directors, several actresses and a genius performance from a French speaking newcomer you’ll leave an imprint on world audiences.

One of the more enjoyable discoveries in covering a film festival is the uncovering of new talent: whether it be behind or in front of the camera. At this year’s Cannes, I was introduced to a foursome of directors, several actresses and a genius performance from a French speaking newcomer you’ll leave an imprint on world audiences. One honorable mention I have before we commence this top ten list, are the child actors from Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon who might pop up a couple of decades from now in a leading role as an adult (we never know). Look for a grid (below) with the faces corresponding to the ranking. Apart from my pending reviews, this is the last piece Cannes coverage piece. 

#10. Ronald Bronstein – Actor/Director (Go Get Some Rosemary). Who knew that Ronald Bronstein (the director of Frownland) had it in him? He is the life of the Safdie bros.’ latest film, where he plays a father at wits end and delivers a fully rounded performance proving that acting chops can come from a decade of passionately watching movies.

#9. Laura Neiva – Actress (Adrift). Director Heitor Dhalia gave the lead role to a fourteen year-old actress and put her in the eye of the storm. The family drama, coming-of-age pic sees the child actress stand on her own ground and go toe to toe with a great like Vincent Cassel. She plays a daughter who accidently uncovers her parents failed marriage and how it is held together by a string. The camera loves her, and if I were in Brazil I’d be one among many to notice the ascension of an actress perfecting her craft at the same time she meets up with womanhood.

#8. Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus). Before the Gilliam film, I had no idea who this person was, but I’m sure the model already had a fanbase. She had a part in St. Trinian’s and Sally Potter’s Rage, so she isn’t technically a newbie, but this is her first major role and one of the only bright spots in the fantasy pic. She plays a roadshow assistant/a.k.a love interest to Heath Ledger‘s character. Thanks mostly to her looks and her playful interpretation of the role, she is the breath of fresh air needed for the dull fantasy film.

#7. Marimar Vega – Actress (Daniel & Ana) – Michel Franco hands a rather brutal first role on the silver-screen to Mexican television actress Marimar Vega. She is set in the middle of a war path that might have been psychologically stretching the actress to very uncomfortable limits – but she takes on the role like a seasoned expert.

top 10 faces and voices cannes 2009

#6. Michel Franco Writer/Director (Daniel & Ana). Kudos go to the director for going into a terrain with a non-sensationalistic approach. With his debut film, Franco has joined the ranks of and recent exploits of the young generations of Mexican filmmakers with a frame that hardly moves, and the sort of jolting elements that make viewers uneasy and queasy. Looking forward to seeing what else he has in store. 

#5. Xavier Dolan Writer-director-actor-producer (J’ai tue ma mere” a.k.a I Killed My Mother). Dolan got his start in the business in his early childhood, perhaps it is a mix of him being in the profession and his ability to convey what is essentially semi-autobiographical tale of his into a compelling screenplay, but not only does Dolan have a great ear for dialogue and providing a story arch built on emotions, but stylistically speaking, he happens to have a great eye for aestheticism. The fact that he was able to multi-task with bravado says a lot about this 20 year-old filmmaker. 

#4. Axelle Ropert – Writer/Director (La famille Wolberg). She helped write Serge Bozon‘s La France and with her debut Ropert demonstrates a knack at creating authentic characters that suffer in silence. The tone of her film beautifully details the strains the family dynamic and though she might have some more work to make it visually more appealing, she can write the sort of characters that you’d be willing to follow way past the two hour run time mark. 

#3. Gabe Ibáñez – Director (Hierro). The Spaniard is a definitely a talent to watch out for director to watch out for. I wouldn’t reference his debut thriller Hierro as the ultimate of calling cards (the story-line is an empty vessel) but his stylistic strokes as a director clearly indicate a talent to look out for…perhaps in the same vein as the family of other Spanish directors current embedded in the thriller genre. 

#2. Katie Jarvis – Actress (Fish Tank). Jarvis might have unknowingly become the new poster child for contemporary Kitchen Sink cinema. Andrea Arnold places Jarvis in enough awkward situations that even professionally trained actors who have difficulty handling. Perhaps it is her school of hard knocks life before the film that helped her delivery such a fierce first time performance. She has quickly signed up some with a top talent agency during the fest.

#1. Tahar Rahim – Actor (A Prophet). We spend almost the entire run time with Rahim’s character and his perilous journey both behind and outside of his cell. I guess expert direction on Jacques Audiard‘s part helped shaped the performance from the young actor, who must get into a mindset that could have been destabilizing. Telling from the reaction at Cannes, his performance moved plenty of journos – expect a very bright future for the actor who previously had only had a bit role in Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury‘s debut film À l’intérieur.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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