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A Cannes Opener: 2016 Cannes Film Festival Predictions

A furious slew of titles in the works would seem to prophesize a robust main competition slate for Cannes 2016. Though our initial list will eventually be pruned down as the year progresses (Berlin may snag something in here, especially if their 2016 lineup looks anything like their landmark selection from this past January), we’re confident that we will be seeing another round of heavy hitting auteurs unveiling their latest bits on the Croisette.

Absent from the main competition in 2015 were the Romanians (Muntean and Porumboiu were assigned to Un Certain Regard) and any trace of Latin filmmakers. The 2016 edition looks to make up for lost ground. For the Romanians, a couple heavy hitting titans from the New Wave will be ready. Cristi Puiu, who previously won UCR in 2005 with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu should hopefully be getting a competition invite for Sierra Nevada. Meanwhile, previous Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu should have his fourth title ready. In late 2014, the Romanian National Film Center announced a record breaking grant awarded to Mungiu for a project titled RMN. A year later, the Center granted what sounded like a separate grant for a project referred to as Family Pictures (a project being cited as ‘untitled’ by some sources). It is unclear if RMN is the same or a separate project currently on hold, but either way, it seems we’re going to have Mungiu’s follow-up to 2012’s Beyond the Hills ready.

Spanish language filmmakers should be prominent, at the top of that heap is Pedro Almodovar, with his latest feature, Silencio. Almodovar is also a producer on what promises to be a title representing stiff competition with Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, an epic project representing her first film since 2008’s The Headless Woman. And since he picked up the Best Director award in 2013 for Heli, we’re assuming Amat Escalante could make an appearance with The Untamed.

There was a shortage of British talent at the 2015 edition, and though Ben Wheatley’s High Rise didn’t make an appearance, the prolific director’s already filming Free Fire, which could very well bring him back to the fest. Likewise, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, a UK/US co-production, is finally underway, and her Jury Prize for 2009’s Fish Tank should see her welcomed back.

A number of other co-productions could possibly be buzzy titles, such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, a follow-up to the divisive Only God Forgives (2013). And considering the pedigree of the cast and the actor’s numerous films that have played the fest, Brady Corbet’s directorial debut The Childhood of a Leader, starring Berenice Bejo and Robert Pattinson, could be a highly touted title (unless we see it hit Venice this fall or Berlin this winter) and in a fun twist of fate, we could see Corbet’s Simon Killer director Antonio Campos make a return to Cannes. His debut film Afterschool (2008) premiered in the Un Certain Regard section, and his third outing Christine starring Michael C. Hall and Rebecca Hall could move up a section. And Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s latest, according to the filmmaker himself, will be filmed in China and ready for 2016, while fellow countryman Asghar Farhadi (who broke onto the Croisette with The Past in 2013) is set to begin filming in October with the Almodóvar-produced English and Spanish language film item.

There’s bound to be stiff competition amongst the French language titles, including the return of several Palme d’Or winners. Recently two-time winner Michael Haneke announced he’d abandoned, for the time being, his Flashmob project, and was now working on another film set in France, which we hope will be ready in time. And two-time Palme winning Belgian directing duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have recruited rising French star Adele Haenel to headline their latest, The Unknown Girl. Meanwhile, no solid news on where Abdellatif Kechiche is on his The Real Wound, his follow-up to 2013 Palme winner Blue is the Warmest Color, at one time reported to have Gerard Depardieu in the cast, but we’re hoping no news is good news. And where would we be without Isabelle Huppert in the line-up? She’s headlining Paul Verhoeven’s highly anticipated Elle, which we had hoped would be ready this fall, but Verhoeven says early next year. If this waits to be unveiled there, we like her chances for winning a third Best Actress award since she’s also headlining the next film from Mia Hansen-Love, The Future, a director who may make the leap from UCR (The Father of My Children, 2009) to the main competition.

Other major French players include Bertrand Bonello with Paris is a Feast, Bruno Dumont with the Juliette Binoche headlined Slack Bay, while Stephane Brize, whose 2015 title The Measure of a Man took home Best Actor is already making progress with his next feature, A Life. Also certain to be invited, Olivier Assayas is back with a new project, Personal Shopper, reuniting him with American star, Kristen Stewart (who is the only US actress ever to win a Cesar award thanks to her role in his Clouds of Sils Maria).

Representing the Canadians will be returning filmmaker Xavier Dolan, whose 2014 title Mommy nabbed the Jury Prize. He may even be back with two features. The first feature is the French language It’s Just the End of the World, headlined by a bevy of Gallic stars, including Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, and Lea Seydoux. Meanwhile, his English language debut, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan has been slightly delayed, though with a cast consisting of Jessica Chastain, Kathy Bates, and Susan Sarandon, we’re hoping he has time to fit this in, too.

Ukrainian filmmaker Miroslav Slaboshpitsky reigned supreme at Critics’ Week with debut The Tribe in 2014, so his hotly anticipated sophomore feature, The Luxembourg, may get a major lift into the main competition.

And as for our American auteurs, we’re keeping the options slim for now. But depending on how long Terrence Malick wants to delay the currently untitled Weightless, we could see that here. The first reunion in 25 years of Spike Lee with stars Samuel Jackson and Wesley Snipes for Chiraq gives us hope (considering 1991’s Jungle Fever was the last time Lee played in competition). And then, there’s Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, should that be ready. We are thinking Mike Mills could make a bow here with 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning. Australian director David Michod is set to start filming the Netflix financed War Machine starring Brad Pitt, which may see the director offered a comp slot.

Several animated features might vie for a slot. Charlie Kaufman‘s long anticipated stop-motion feature Anomalisa is supposedly completed, and could unveil here. Then there’s the matter of Ari Folman, (whose sophomore feature The Congress is still without a deserving reputation), perhaps poised to be re-invited to the main competition with his as yet untitled animated Anne Frank project. Less likely, but worthy of mention is stop-motion auteur Jan Svankmajer, whose latest project, The Insects, could be ready in time.

And then, we have a bunch of dark horse titles as well, many of these from American directors, including the latest from John Cameron Mitchell, How to Talk to Girls at Parties; Sofia Coppola’s Fairyland (though her energy seems currently invested in a TV musical); and a third feature from Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Other foreign titles we think may have a fighting chance are Wim Wenders with The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (though Berlin seems more fashionable considering Fremaux’s reluctance to slot German filmmakers), while Leos Carax apparently has a film in the works with musical group Sparks. Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, whose galvanizing first feature Son of Saul took home the Grand Jury Prize in 2015, is moving forward with his next film, Sunset. Not to be discounted would be the perennial Andre Techine, back with the Celine Sciamma penned When You’re 17. And then maybe Ruben Ostlund finally deserves a little competition love with The Square.

Last but not least, we’re keeping hope alive for these perpetually delayed titles, at the top of which is Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s monolithic Dau. And then we’re not quite sure if Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s Babi Yar will be ready, while Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s On the Milky Road is also on the extended gestational track. We’re looking forward to more discussions as the year progresses.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.


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