Cannes 2018

Seven Standouts in Un Certain Regard

On Film / The Daily — May 4, 2018
Long Day’s Journey Into Night, courtesy of Wild Bunch

This year marks two notable anniversaries for Un Certain Regard. The section, which runs parallel to the competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was inaugurated forty years ago, in 1978, and the Prix Un Certain Regard was introduced twenty years later, in 1998. Seventeen titles are lined up for UCR 2018, and we have a first round of notes on all of them here and here. Today, we’re taking a closer look at a handful of the most promising of these films, fully aware that one or two left off this list will almost certainly surprise us all. Hope so!

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is Bi Gan’s second feature; his first, Kaili Blues, premiered in 2015 in Locarno, where Bi would win a Best Emerging Director award. Similar watch-this-guy awards would follow from festivals in Beijing, Taipei, and Nantes. Dispatching from Locarno to Film Comment, Nick Pinkerton noted that many were drawing comparisons to the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “But I was mainly reminded in an abstract way of early Bertolucci, if only because Bi comes from poetry and, in each of his film’s distinct movements, exhibits a clear desire to astonish.” In Long Day’s Journey, “Luo Hongwu returns to Kaili, the hometown from which he fled twelve years earlier,” according to the synopsis. “As memories of an enigmatic and beautiful woman resurface—a woman he loved and whom he has never been able to forget—Luo Hongwu begins his search for her. Past and present, reality and dream interweave in Bi Gan’s stunningly beautiful and highly innovative film noir.”

Ulrich Köhler’s Bungalow (2002) is “one of the most quintessential of all Berlin School films,” wrote Marco Abel for Cineaste in 2008. Abel would know; he wrote the book on the Berlin School and has co-edited another coming out in June. 2002 was a long time ago, but consider Abel’s observations on Bungalow: “Not only is the defining feature of the film’s protagonist, Paul, his utter apathy and refusal to care about the consequences of his (in)actions, but the film’s mise-en-scène itself relentlessly images his refusal to engage and to live up to expectations.” And set that next to the synopsis for In My Room: “Armin is getting too old for his night life habits and the woman he likes. He’s not really happy, but can’t picture living a different life. One morning he wakes up: the world looks the same as always, but mankind has disappeared. A film about the frightening gift of maximum freedom.” Among other awards, Köhler has won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlinale for Sleeping Sickness (2011). His partner is Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann), a co-producer on In My Room.

Rafiki, courtesy of Big World Pictures and Afrobubblegum

Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki will be the first feature from Kenya to ever screen in Cannes—and Kenya has already banned it at home. The story of Kena and Ziki, two girls in Nairobi who fall in love despite the political rivalry between their families, “deals with matters that are uncomfortable for the Kenya Film Classification Board,” Kahiu tells Variety’s Christopher Vourlias. “But I truly believe that an adult Kenyan audience is mature and discerning enough to be able to watch this film and have their own conversation.” And she tells the New Current that she’s honored “to play in the same festival as African cinema legends like Sembène Ousmane, Souleymane Cissé, and Abderrahmane Sissako.”

Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass is named for the region of Ukraine where an armed conflict between the government and separatist forces has been roiling since 2014. “It is very important for me to draw the attention of politicians to the problem of Donbass,” says Loznitsa, adding that “this is the main problem of our time. It’s not about a region, a country, or a political system, but about the humanity and the civilization on the whole, about each of us today.” This will be Loznitsa’s fourth film to screen in Cannes. My Joy (2010) was the first Ukrainian film ever to compete for the Palme d'Or, and In the Fog (2012) won the FIPRESCI Prize.

Manto is the second feature after Firaaq (2008) directed by renowned actress Nandita Das, who’s worked with Mrinal Sen and Deepa Mehta. Das was on the International Jury at Cannes in 2005 and the Cinéfondation and short films jury in 2013. Manto stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the author and playwright Saadat Hasan Manto.

Valeria Golino’s first feature, Honey (2013), drew a comparison to Lucrecia Martel from Diego Costa at Slant: “Both Martel and Golino abide by gimmick-free storytelling codes that feel organically idiosyncratic, and never tentative.” Euphoria, starring Riccardo Scamarcio, Valerio Mastandrea, and Jasmine Trinca, is about two very different brothers forced to come to terms with each other in Rome.

When The Owners screened in Toronto in 2014, Michael Sicinski, writing for Cinema Scope, found it to be “the sort of film that is likely to garner not just defenders but a small coterie of genuine fans, folks who see director Adilkhan Yerzhanov as some sort of bizarre visionary.” He also cited the influence of filmmakers as varied as Aki Kaurismäki and Pedro Costa. Yerzhanov’s The Gentle Indifference of the World “follows two young villagers, Saltanat (Dinara Baktybayeva), and her penniless admirer Kuandyk (Kuandyk Dussenbaev),” notes Stewart Clarke in Variety. “The lovers are forced to leave the countryside for the big city in an attempt to save Saltanat’s mother from jail.”

The seventy-first Cannes Film Festival opens on May 8 and runs through May 19.

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