Personal Shopper (France)
Following the demise of the UK distributor Metrodome, the status of Olivier Assayas’ latest collaboration with Kristen Stewart has been up in the air. British audiences will at least have a chance to see the follow-up to the mesmerising Clouds of Sils Maria at the festival. The very different Personal Shopper is a supernatural drama set in the world of Parisian high-fashion. Stewart, who also stars in Kelly Reichardt’s festival entry Certain Women, has found her calling in challenging movies light years away from the Twilight franchise.
There’s more to Indian cinema than all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood spectacles. Based on a Punjabi folk tale, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya sees Saiyami Kher make her Hindi-language debut opposite Harshvardhan Kapoor (son of legendary actor Anil Kapoor) and proves that Indian cinema is on the rise once more. The sweeping romantic epic blends mythical elements with a modern day love story to great effect.
Toni Erdmann (Germany/Austria)
Writer-director Maren Ade’s bittersweet comedy has been selected as Germany’s official selection for the 2017 Oscars, and the positive reviews that followed its Cannes debut in May suggest the hype is justified. An ageing prankster (Peter Simonischek) decides that the only way to connect with his adult daughter (Sandra Hüller) is to play tricks on her. Clocking in at nearly three hours, it’s not short, but the word is that its very, very good.
It’s Only the End of the World/Juste la fin du monde (Canada/France)
Perennial London Film Festival darling Xavier Dolan was inevitably going to pop up on this list somewhere. This time he is “only” on writing, directing, producing and editing duties, managing to hand over acting responsibilities to Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel. Adapted from a play, the drama centres on a writer who returns home after an extended leave of absence to announce his impending death to his family. Expect a wry look at the tensions that exist between close relatives – a Dolan trademark.
An uncompromising look at cannibalism, Raw is so viscerally realistic and gory that at a recent Toronto film festival screening audience members passed out. Animal-loving vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) is turned onto the delights of drugs, parties, and meat when she falls in with the wrong crowd at veterinary college. When a hazing initiation goes too far, she finds her most primal urges impossible to resist. Despite its horror genre set-up, Raw is layered with subtext.
One of the leading lights of Egyptian cinema, Mohamed Diab has previously examined political upheavals in his nation’s past, but this time he looks to its recent history and future. The focal point of this claustrophobic drama is the bloody turmoil of 2013 that followed the popular uprising of 2011 and the subsequent surge to power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rival protesters go head-to-head under the watchful gaze of the police. His earlier films, notably 678, have played well with international audiences so it will be fascinating to see how this contemporary effort fares.
Chasing Asylum (Australia)
Showing as part of the documentary competition, this topical look at the Australian government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is shocking. Academy Award-winner Eva Orner felt compelled to make the film after a riot in one of the detention camps resulted in a number of deaths. Using undercover footage and interviews with family members of refugees, Orner’s pressing film has been heightened by the recent release of secret documents detailing abuse on the island of Naru.
Unheralded until a recent screening at the Venice film festival, Moonlight is now in the running for the end-of-year awards. It was produced by Brad Pitt, who had praised director Barry Jenkins for his 2008 film Medicine for Melancholy. Chiron (Trevente Rhodes), a young man growing up in Miami, struggles to come to terms with his sexuality in the macho world he knows . Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali co-star in a movie that has a palpable sense of momentum behind it.
Another early pick for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Chile’s official entry stars Gael Garcia Bernal star as a police inspector who hunts down the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda for joining the Communist Party. Featuring stunning vistas of Chile, the film was screened as part of the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. Director Pablo Larraín is currently winning rave reviews for his Jacqueline Onassis biopic Jackie, which stars Natalie Portman.
Your Name/Kimi No Na Wa (Japan)
Your Name topped the box-office on its release in Japan. Blending elements of sci-fi and fantasy, the anime romance is about two teenagers who imagine themselves living each other’s lives. It was written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, a former graphic designer who has worked on commercials and video games. The significance of dreams plays an important part, as it did in some of Shinkai’s previous work.
A Date for Mad Mary (Ireland)
Partaking of the same charming whimsy exhibited in Sing Street and Once, this Irish gem follows a recently released prisoner (Seána Kerslake as the Mad Mary of the title) who is desperate for a date to take to her best friends’s wedding. It’s scarcely an original premise, but expect a radical improvement on Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. The commuter town of Drogheda in County Louth plays a major part in the proceedings.
Another big hit from Cannes, Houda Benjamin’s debut feature is a rollicking but suspenseful drama about a low-level female hoodlum and her more cautious best friend. The real story behind the story is one of identity and the struggle to fit in. The Muslim teens feel pressured from all directions and Europe proves to have just as many pitfalls as the girls’ Arab home. Divines is a polished first effort from Benjamin and should draw comparisons with last year’s French festival favourite Girlhood.
My Life As a Courgette/Ma vie de courgette (Switzerland)
The Swiss entry for next year’s Oscars is this humorous stop-motion animation film. Nine-year-old Courgette finds himself living in an orphanage following the death of her mother. The boy finds hope with the arrival of Camille and friendship blossoms between them. It’s more mature in tone than most animated movies: director Claude Barras doesn’t gloss over the mother’s abusive backstory.
What’s in the Darkness/Hei Chu You Shen Me (China)
A Chinese feminist police drama? Wang Yichun’s coming-of-age tale, which stars Su Xiaotong, capture the trials faced by all young women. When the local police fail miserably to apprehend a serial killer, the daughters of two detectives are drawn into the mystery. The crime strand never overpowers the theme of repression as faced by most women in Chinese society.
The Space in Between: Marina Abramović in Brazil (Brazil)
The controversial Serbian artist Marina Abramović takes a personal journey into Brazilian mysticism, something that has long fascinated her. As introspective as all her work, it shows Abramović submitting herself to a series of eye-opening experiments culminating in an Ayahuasca ceremony. The artist’s unpredictability is matched by the creative choices made by director Marco Del Fiol.
Young love behind prison bars is the starting point for this gritty modern Romeo and Juliet set in Rome. The lack of clinical editing result in a film that is raw to its core and all the more compelling for it. Much praised for his use of authentic locations, director Claudio Giovannesi proves that his previous effort Ali Blue Eyes was no one-off.
The Wedding Ring/Zin’naariyâ! (Burkina Faso)
Rahmatou Keïta’s second feature is a female-driven character piece about a woman who returns home to the Zinder in Niger after spending several years abroad. Having had her heart broken, she is in need of love and unexpectedly finds it in the last place she expects. As Tiyaa (Magaajyia Silberfeld) travels across the sumptuously captured locales, we meet other women forging their own path in the traditionally conservative country.
The Student/Uchenik (Russia)
Teenager Venya (Petr Skvortsov) is becoming obsessed with quoting scripture and verse from the Bible. The student’s problematic behaviour – a concern for his mother and classmates – is exacerbated by his rejection of Darwinianism and his unwillingness to pay heed to sex education. Director Kirill Serebrennikov adapted his highly charged play Martyr for a movie that pulls the audience in frightening directions and reflects the darker aspects of modern Russia.
The Untamed/La Región Salvaje (Mexico)
The less said about the premise of this twisty Mexican chiller, the better it works. A sense of the otherworldly permeates the opening section of Amat Escalante’s film, hinting at the darkness that lies within the protagonist Veronica (Ruth Ramos), a victim of a bizarre addiction. The people she meets along the way are almost as odd as she is.
The Worthy (United Arab Emirates)
The dystopian landscape featured prominently in director Ali F. Mostafa’s vision of a socially destabilized Arab world doesn’t seem that removed from the reality we see on the daily news. That’s the point of this exhilarating, spectacular film, which tap into centuries-old fears as well as modern terrors. Arab cinema is lagging behind the rest of the world, but when it decides to tackle issues that concern us all, there is nothing more relevant.
Nordic Noir is firmly established as a sub-genre thanks to TV series and films capitalising on the desire for Scandinavian crime dramas. Based on a true story, Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film takes a naturalistic approach to its account of a 19-year-old man whose obsession with fire has taken a dangerous turn. The stark Norwegian landscape serves as a perfect backdrop for activities of a pyromaniac.
The Wailing/Goksung (South Korea)
Like the zombie thriller Train to Busan, Hong-jin Na’s The Wailing is indicative of South Korea’s horror film resurgence, far removed from last decade’s K-horror films. A policeman, a shaman and a mysterious young woman walk into a forest (no, this isn’t the set-up to a joke) to investigate a series of murders. As a debilitating sickness spreads throughout a rural village, the unlikely trio is tasked with putting an end to the ongoing panic. Expect some comedy with the terror.