When Cannes announced its 2019 lineup last week, Critics’ Week was quick to point out that three of the directors with films in the competition—Arnaud Desplechin, Ken Loach, and Justine Triet—made their festival circuit debuts in its program of first and second features. Founded in 1962 by the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, Critics’ Week is the oldest independent section running parallel to the main event and claims among its alumni a roster of filmmakers as diverse as Wong Kar-wai, Julia Ducournau, and Jeff Nichols as well as the president of this year’s Cannes jury, Alejandro González Iñarritu.
Critics’ Week’s fifty-eighth edition will open on May 15 with Litigante (The Defendant), the second feature by Colombian director Franco Lolli. His first, Gente de bien, premiered in the 2014 edition. In Litigante, a lawyer and single mother in her forties falls for a crusading reporter and leaves Bogotá with him, despite facing corruption charges and the challenges of raising her four-year-old son and caring for her ailing mother. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, whose title echoes the famous painting by Yuan dynasty artist Huang Gongwang, is the first fiction feature by documentary filmmaker Gu Xiaogang, and it will close this year’s edition on May 23. This first entry in a projected trilogy spans four seasons as four brothers adjust to a new reality after their seventy-year-old mother suffers a stroke.
Among the highlights of the program of seven competing features, three special screenings, and a total of fifteen shorts is Irish director Lorcan Finnegan’s science fiction thriller Vivarium. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a couple looking to buy a house when they stumble into an eerie world of identical homes and are charged with raising an otherworldly child. Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason follows up on Winter Brothers (2017), an award winner in Locarno, with A White, White Day, in which a police officer, grieving the recent death of his wife, begins to suspect that she’d been having an affair.
Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent, Birds of Passage) will preside over the jury, which includes actress Amira Casar, producer Marianne Slot, critic Djia Mambu, and director Jonas Carpignano. Variety’s Elsa Keslassy notes that, while women directed only twenty-six percent of the 1,050 features submitted for consideration, nearly half of the films selected are directed by women. Watch artistic director Charles Tesson’s introduction to this year’s edition below, and click “CC” if you’re not seeing the English subtitles: