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Cannes: The Cinéfondation

Shivajee ChandrabhushanAs Cannes winds down, award dinners wind up. Last night it was time once again to tramp on over the the Grand Salon of the Carlton Hotel to celebrate more winners. This dinner was for all the participants of the many programs of the festival's Cinéfondation, the festival's arm for nurturing new talent. One of the newest programs is the Atelier, started in 2005. Each year fifteen projects are selected and the filmmakers are invited to Cannes to take part in meetings with producers, distributors, programmers and the like. The aim is to get real support going for these films.

Some of the participants this year include Marco van Geffen, whose film project,  In Your Name, is the second part of a trilogy (the first part, Among Us, is already completed). The project won the Arte Prize for best project in the Atelier. Marco told me that it is a real honor and great support for the project. They hope that with this kind of support they can begin shooting in October 2013.

At dinner I met another Atelier filmmaker. Shivajee Chandrabhusham was in Cannes with his project The Untold Tale, an Indian film that takes place around the world over a span of 60 years, so international funding is a must. The Atelier has been a great experience for him, yet he feels a lot of responsibility being in the program: this is serious stuff. Chandrabhusham and his producer/wife, Triparna Banerjee, have already identified a french producer at the Atelier, which is very helpful. In fact, the mantra at our table, which included some French funders, was "everyone should have a French producer!"

One of those funders was Jacqueline Ada, with CNC (Centre national du cinéma). While the CNC does many things for cinema in and outside of France, Jacqueline's area is foreign film support, so her work is crucial to most of the Cinéfondation participants, including filmmakers in the festival's Residence program, such as Simon Paetau. Paetau, whose short film, Mila Caos, premiered in New Directors/New Films two years ago, is one of six filmmakers spending 5 months at the Cinéfondation's Residence in Paris. The object is to give these filmmakers a dedicated space to work on writing their scripts - first or second features.

Jéro Yun is a South Korean filmmaker at the Residence working on two scripts: Secret de mon père Nord Coréen and Red House.They are not required to finish, and while they are there Cinéfondation director Georges Goldenstern brings in loads of filmmakers, film programmers, and other film professionals to talk to them. And they also have time to talk to each other; peers mentoring peers can work wonders. During their residencies Goldenstern brings the filmmakers to festivals and their markets, so that they can pitch their stories. This group came to Cannes, where they presented their projects at the CNC pavilion.

The Cinéfondation also presents four programs of short films during the Cannes festival, from film school students around the world. Yesterday the winners were announced by the Cinéfondation and short film jury, headed by one half of the highly regarded Belgian filmmaking team, Jean-Pierre Dardenne. First prize of €15,000 went to Taisia Igumentseva of VGIK film school in Russia, for her film The Road To. Second Prize (and €11,250) went to Abigail by NYU student Matthew James Reilly, and Cuban EICTV student Miguel Angel Moulet won €7,500 for The Hosts. As an added bonus, the first prize winner's first feature film is guaranteed a slot in some section of the Cannes festival. Not too shabby.

In short, keep your eye on the Cinéfondation: this is where they grow talent in Cannes.

Cannes '12: The Camera d’Or Competition

villegas cannesWhen all is said and done, everyone will talk about the rain at Cannes this year. Three days of rain (so far), including a storm with raging winds that caused some screenings to be cancelled, and one of the cinemas is, in fact, a huge tent-like structure on the roof of another building.

You don't want it full of people with high winds outside.

One of those cancelled screenings was the premiere of Gonzalo Tobal's Villegas, a first feature playing out of competition. That is, out of the main competition. The film is one of 25 films vying for the coveted Camera d’Or prize (for best first feature film).

Some of these first features have already had premieres at US festivals.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) and Room 237 by Rodney Ascher premiered at Sundance in January, while Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot won SXSW’s grand prize. (Both Beasts and Loot also played in New York at New Directors/New Films).

Among those films premiering in Cannes are: 

  • Los Salvajes, by Alejandro Fadel, playing in Critics’ Week, about a group of teens who, having escaped from a reform school, are left to their own devices as they make their way through a rural Argentinian landscape.
  • Antiviral, by Brandon Cronenberg (yes, son of David) which details a society gone so over the top in celebrity adoration that people pay big money to have the stars' germs injected into their bodies
  • Katrine Boorman’s love letter to her father, director John Boorman, Me and Me Dad – a home movie homage/critique of the filmmaker, his work, and his family

beasts cannesVillegas, mentioned above, was finally screened on Monday morning, and another screening has been added on Wednesday May 23 at 10pm; this one in the Buñuel Theater - tucked away inside the main "Palais" building, so no worries about being blown away.

Now the challenge is to get the word out about the added screenings.

This was director Tobal's worry when we spoke at an after-screening drink at the soggy Argentine pavilion.

He also talked about his creative path in making the film.

In an unusual beginning to a project, he told me that he didn't have the story down (which concerns two cousins, returning home for their grandfather's funeral, and struggling with their relationship to one another now that they are adults, as well as each one struggling with their own path towards adulthood). He knew, though, the tone he wanted the film to have.

Villegas is a real town in Argentina, and Tobal knew he wanted to use that location for a film - a small inland town with farms and ranches.

It was both the landscape of the area and the building structures of the farm (there is a lovely scene inside a silo filled with grain) that he wanted to incorporate into the film. And he knew he wanted to work with Esteban Bigiardi and Esteban Lamothe, his two lead actors.

About five years ago, when Tobal's own grandfather died while Tobal was living in Paris, the story of going back to the family started to take shape.

Katrine Boorman grew up with her subject, so the idea for her documentary was always in her head. She brought the celebrated filmmaker onstage as she introduced the film. Boorman is a Cannes veteran who has twice won the festival's directing award -- known here as the prix de la mise en scene -- in 1970 for Leo the Last and in 1998 for The General.

After thanking her crew, and the rest of the family, the filmmaker's father took the microphone to tell us that he told his daughter that she could make the film, interview him, and ask him anything -- as long as she didn't show it to anyone.

With this screening in the Cannes Classics section, I guess the cat is out of the bag.

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

Podcast: Berlin 7 Yelling to the Sky

Image from YELLING TO THE SKY - SHAREEKA EPPS as Fatima HarrisYelling to the Sky – Oprah-Ready

Take two teenaged daughters, a bruised Black mother, and a drunken White father. It adds up to a lot of yelling, a new indie film genre, and a potential cast visit to Oprah.

Yelling to the Sky is the debut film by Victoria Mahoney, and it features Zoe Kravitz in the role of Sweetness O’Hara. Move over, Scarlet.

David D’Arcy saw Yelling to the Sky at the 2011 Berlinale, without earplugs.

* click on the player to hear the podcast

{enclose berlin-7-yelling-to-the-sky.mp3}

The Tournées Fest -- Diplomacy Through French Film

In the 15 years since the Tournées Festival began bringing contemporary French films to campuses across the U.S., it has stirred that warm, bubbly feeling for Gallic cinema normally induced by champagne. The Festival’s creators, Cultural Services of the French Embassy and French American Cultural Exchange (FACE), are downright giddy about its stats.

As well they should be. Some 350 films have reached 450,000 students in 350 universities since the program’s founding in 1995; and in 2009-2010 alone, 100 or so universities from nearly 40 states and Puerto Rico benefited from its largesse.

French cinephilia has even spread to l’Amérique Profonde. This includes a state school in Maine and a small bible college in Alabama, as FACE Chairman of the Board Jacques Bouhet told a glittering crowd assembled last night at the French Consulate in New York to fête the program’s anniversary.

Read more: The Tournées Fest -- Diplomacy...

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