Cannes at 70: Shining a Light in an Ugly World

by Ana Maria Bahiana May 17, 2017
POster of the 70th Cannes Film festival

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At 70, the Cannes Film Festival – opening today with the gala screening of Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts - feels as young and fresh as ever.

There’s a notable presence of works from young filmmakers, from the US’ Sean Baker, of Tangerine fame, in the Directors’ Fortnight with his newest, The Florida Project, to France’s Arthur de Pins, directing an animated featured based on his comic book series Zombillenium. There’s a big chunk of Sundance programming on the Croisette – the super popular Patty Cake$, Al Gore’s doc An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power and Kristen Stewart’s short Come Swim. There’s a virtual reality project by Alejandro Iñarritu, Carne y Arena; two avant-premieres of (gasp!) TV series – Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl and David Lynch’s rebooted/reimagined Twin Peaks. There’s even – le double gasp! – two titles with the Netflix imprint – Bong Joon Ho’s monster-fantasy Okja and Noah Baumbach’s family drama The Meyerowitz Stories.

Iconoclasts are on hand: John Cameron Michell with How to Girls at Parties, Yorgos Lanthimos with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, veteran (and two time Palme d’Or and Golden Globe winner) Michael Haneke with Happy End. And, women. So many women: Sofia Coppola subverting Clint Eastwood with her own take on The Beguiled; Lynne Ramsay with You Were Never Really Here; Naomi Kawase with Hikari; Annarita Zambrano with After The War; Cecilia Atan and Valeria Pivato with The Desert Bride; Valeska Grisebach with Western; Anahita Ghazvinizadeh with They, about gender identity ; Vanessa Redgrave with her documentary Sea Sorrow, about the plight of refugees.

Cannes has always found a way to highlight the integrity of film both as an art form and a mirror of the times. The world of its 70th anniversary is a tough, ugly one, plagued by never ending wars, xenophobic nationalism and an assortment of tyrants and would-be tyrants. But it’s also a world infused with the power of global connectivity and multi-national collaboration, pushing against barriers to find common ground. This year’s jubilee selection expresses all these facets and stimulates imagination and investigation.

Not bad for a 70- year-old.