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Film Festivals

Fin de Cannes 2012

The Festival de Cannes ended tonight as it usually does, with the awarding of the prizes in the main competition. One final trip up the red carpet to the Lumiere Theater for the glitteratti, while the press observed a live feed in the smaller Debussy Theater just next door.

Watching from the Debussy, the media assembled there tried to guess who would win which awards as various film teams walked the carpet: The festival will invite prize winners to come to the closing ceremony so they know they've won something; they just don't know what.

The Palme d'Or went to Amour by Michael Haneke, who won the same award just three years ago for his stern drama The White Ribbon. This time the two lead actors in the film, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, were brought onstage with Haneke to accept the award, which made perfect sense.

This riveting story of an old couple dealing with the wife's debilitating stroke stayed with me throughout the festival, and it is a combination of the work of all three - actors and director - that makes Amour a brilliant achievement.

Other prizes included the directing award to Carlos Reygadas for his surreal story of a cosmopolitan family trying to live life in the countryside, Post Tenebras Lux, and the screenplay award to Romanian director Cristian Mungiu for Beyond the Hills.

The two lead actresses in this drama about religious devotion andan exorcism gone awry, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan, also shared the best performance by an actress award, while the best performance by an actor prize went to Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher wrongly accused of abuse in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt.

Other special prizes were handed out as well: The Jury Prize went to Ken Loach for his socially progressive comedy The Angels' Share, and Matteo Garrone won the Grand Prize for Reality, about one man's quest for reality TV stardom. Perhaps these two citations can be seen as second and third place to Haneke's Palme d'Or. And the Camera d'Or, for best first feature film, went to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a fable of the bayou.

And then it was time to party. The Closing Night party, on the Majestic Beach, was somewhat low rent. But then, all the prize-winning filmmakers were having a private sit-down dinner a little further down the Croisette. The entrance to the dinner was crowded with hundreds of bystanders hoping for a peek at as many celebrities as possible.

Over at the party entrance, there wasn't much of a mob scene; it seemed understood that if you wanted to see the winners, you had to jostle for a spot with the masses outside the Agora restaurant. But inside the Majestic Beach venue, the party was really a let-your-hair down event, a chance for some guests, filmmakers, and festival staff to eat, drink and dance - to pop music of the 70's, 80's and 90's - which is always fun. 

As I left the party, workers were already starting to remove the signs of the festival. Tomorrow everyone else - festival guests and staff - will pack up their bags and leave town. And just a few months to breathe before work on next year's edition starts. The fun never ends.

Dinner in Monte Carlo Celebrates Ethiopian Filmmakers

ethopian filmmakersNot everything in Cannes happens in Cannes.

Last weekend a dinner was held at Villa Nocturne in Monte Carlo, which had recently been featured in Architectural Digest. The villa is the home of host Marco Orsini, filmmaker and founder of the International Emerging Film Talent Association.

The dinner was a benefit for the IEFTA and the Ethiopian Film Initiative, which works closely with Orsini's organization.

Read more: Dinner in Monte Carlo Celebrates...

Rotterdam at Cannes

cinemartCannes doesn't live in a bubble - and neither do other festivals. Just as this festival started, the Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) in the Netherlands sent word of a number of films in Cannes whose directors have received support from the Rotterdam festival in one of two ways: The Hubert Bals Fund and the Rotterdam Cinemart.

The Hubert Bals fund began in 1989, a year after the death of Hubert Bals who founded IFFR in 1972. Created to support filmmaking in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it currently has an annual budget of approximately €1 million. These funds are allocated to script development, post-production and distribution and anyone from new to established filmmakers can apply. This flows seamlessly with the mission of IFFR, since in their programming for the International Film Festival Rotterdam they do put an emphasis on films from what they call "South" - a much more appropriate phrase than what used to be referred to as "Third World."

Watch the end credits for any number of films from these areas of the world and you will see the Hubert Bals Fund logo. Their reach is far and wide in the international filmmaking community. In Cannes this year Los Salvajes, by Alejandro Fadel of Brazil in the Critics' Week, received post-production funds, while La Playa DC (directed by  Juan Andrés Arango) in Un Certain Regard and Villegas by Gonzalo Tobal (mentioned previously in a special screening out of competition) received development support from the Fund.

Marit van den Elshout, head of industry at Rotterdam, told me via email the importance of other festivals, especially Cannes, to the work of the Fund: "For us it is great to see the filmmakers that we have supported in the start of their career or project succeeding," she said. She added, "with the Hubert Bals Fund we can invest in a project in a very early stage when for other financiers it is difficult to commit. It can then work as a motivation to find other financing."

The CineMart idea began 30 years ago. Back then it was a means for Hubert Bals' friends who were filmmakers to show works in progress to potential financiers and distributors. Now the CineMart model is copied by festivals all over the world. And it has become the world’s largest film co-production market for low and medium-budget projects

This year alone, Carlos Reygadas (Post Tenebras Lux) and Sergei Loznitsa (In the Fog) went through the doors of the CineMart for financing, and both of their films are here in Cannes in the official competition. To van den Elshout, their appearance in Cannes is clear. "If these films end up in Cannes Competition we have done something right," she said. "These selections also contribute to the international visibility of both the Hubert Bals Fund and CineMart."

Documentaries at Cannes

polanski cannesDocumentaries are coming into their own at this years’ Cannes. In 2004, when Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 won the French festival's Palme d'Or, it was big news. Since then, very few, if any, documentaries have been shown in the official competition. In fact, most are shown as special screenings, out of competition.

This year is no exception, with a passel of titles premiering here out of competition. The topics vary, but many of the documentaries deal with filmmaking and filmmakers: We've already spoken about Katrine Boorman's film Me and Me Dad about her father, director John Boorman.

That monograph is joined by documentaries about Roman Polanski (Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, by Laurent Bouzereau), Jerry Lewis (Gregg Barson's Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis) and Woody Allen (a film with the obvious title Woody Allen: A Documentary by Robert Weide).

Festival director Gilles Jacob has a documentary in the festival (not his first time), A Special Day, one of a number of festival anniversary films he has presented on the Croisette. This one follows 34 Cannes veterans on the anniversary of his film, To Each His Own Cinema, shown at the 60th Festival de Cannes, back in 2007.

While not a study of individual filmmakers, it is a who's who of Cannes veterans, with appearances by Abbas Kiarostami, Gus van Sant, Aki Kaurismäki, Wong Kar-Wai, Zhang Yimou and others too numerous to mention (although we won't forget to mention Jane Campion, the only woman to win the coveted Palme d'Or, reminding us that there are no films by women in this year's competition).

Two docs deal with the theme of environmentalism: Fatih Akin's Polluting Paradise, which has already been picked up for U.S. distribution by Strand Releasing, and Candida Brady's Trashed, which is produced by actor Jeremy Irons, who also appears in the film.

Ken Burns takes on a politically charged topic with his The Central Park Five, about a now infamous New York City crime and the rush to judgment that ensued. Sébastien Lifshitz takes a smart and loving look at French gays and lesbian pioneers and examines their lives in small provinces as they discuss their lives lived before there was anything like a French Stonewall in The Invisibles.

meekong cannes

Visionary filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who won the Palme d'Or in 2010 for his dream-like narrative feature Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives, is here with a documentary, Mekong Hotel, that mixes fact and fiction as he rehearses a film at a hotel near a flooding river. This work is more of an essay film, as is Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon's Journal de France, which has been described as a voyage through time.

One documentary, Sofia's Last Ambulance, about overworked EMTs in Bulgaria's capital, is playing in Critics' Week, a section selected by a group of film critics. Semaine de la Critique, as it is called in French, has its own juries, and at last night's closing ceremonies they singled out Sofia's Last Ambulence for the Critics' Week Visionary Award. The film is director Ilian Metev's first feature length film, so it is also eligible for the Camera d'Or prize for first features, to be given Sunday night.

That's what's happening with documentaries in the official sections. However, in the Cannes Market -- where the business of film takes place, documentaries have gained a larger presence.

About five years ago the market started hosting a brunch, inviting documentary filmmakers as well as programmers and documentary festival heads. This has turned into a hot ticket at the elegant Carlton Hotel on the Croisette, where valuable networking takes place.

Documentary festivals are everywhere now, and here you can sit at a table and dine with representatives of the many documentary programs throughout Europe - Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland, FIDMarseille in Marseille, France (naturally),and CPH:DOX-Copenhagen in Denmark.

This year the market featured a "Doc Corner," where you could hear Philipp Engelhorn from Cinereach talk about funding or catch doc programmer and former doc producer Thom Powers discuss the ins and outs of documentary festivals.

Programmer Nicole Guillemet, who has been working with the market's documentary project since the beginning, told me she hopes that in a few years documentary film will have its own pavilion on the beach, alongside national cinema pavilions.

[Marian Masone is Director, Festivals/Associate Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center]

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