News from Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and Berlin

Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson’s Stump the Guesser (2020)

Before we turn to the Berlinale’s sneak peeks at its 2020 lineup, we’ve got news from Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and Los Angeles to see to. Spike Lee will preside over the jury at Cannes, and in a statement accompanying the announcement, he traces his history with the festival from the Directors’ Fortnight screening of his debut feature, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), through the premiere in competition of Do the Right Thing (1989) to the Grand prix for BlacKkKlansman in 2018. He also adds that he’s “honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named President of the Cannes jury.” At Little White Lies, Charles Bramesco predicts that “the grandiloquent Lee can be counted on to drop a few memorable soundbites, and moreover, he’ll bring the spirit of Bed-Stuy to the stuffy banks of the Cote d’Azur.” Cannes’s seventy-third edition will run from May 12 through 23.

This morning, Venice, whose seventy-seventh edition will run from September 2 through 12, announced that it, too, has selected a jury president. Cate Blanchett, who will be premiering new work in Berlin next month, says that it will be “a privilege and a pleasure” to serve, adding that Venice is “one of the most atmospheric film festivals in the world.”

Sundance has presented a roster of twenty-five jurors spread across the seven competitions of its 2020 edition, which opens next Thursday and runs through February 2. Among the jurors will be Ethan Hawke, Dee Rees, Isabella Rossellini, Haifaa Al Mansour, Alba Rohrwacher, Eric Hynes, Gregg Araki, and Cindy Sherman. The festival has also been rolling out this year’s series of “Meet the Artist” videos, allowing us to see the likes of Steve James and Ai Weiwei introduce the projects they’ll be presenting in Park City.

Locarno in Los Angeles will return for a fourth edition set to take place from February 13 through 16 at the Downtown Independent theater. Curated by Jordan Cronk—who, by the way, writes about the most vital works of experimental cinema in the 2010s in the new Film Comment—and Robert Koehler, the festival will present local premieres of Pedro Costa’s Golden Leopard winner, Vitalina Varela, Tyler Taormina’s coming-of-age drama Ham on Rye, and Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter’s sci-fi docu-fiction Space Dogs, along with eight other highlights from last summer’s Locarno Film Festival.

Berlinale 2020

The full lineup for the seventieth edition of the Berlin International Film Festival won’t be revealed until January 29. But the Berlinale has been giving us previews over the past several weeks, and in the past few days, it’s picked up the pace. Agnieszka Holland’s Charlatan—the true story of Jan Mikolášek, who, without any formal medical education, saved the life of Czechoslovakian president Antonín Zápotocký and healed countless others—is one of six titles added to the Berlinale Special program. The other five:

  • Last and First Man is the sole feature directed by the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival). Shot in black and white on 16 mm by Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, the project began as a multimedia presentation examining war monuments throughout the Balkans. The film will be narrated by Tilda Swinton.
  • Three Chinese novelists discuss the literature and history of the past seven decades in Jia Zhangke’s documentary Swimming Out to Sea Till the Sea Turns Blue.
  • Johnny Depp will play the renowned photographer W. Eugene Smith in Andrew Levitas’s Minamata. The story focuses on Smith’s exposure of the devastation wrought on a Japanese coastal town by the negligence of a local chemical factory.
  • Nanette Burstein’s Hillary, a documentary set to premiere at Sundance, is a portrait of one of the most divisive figures in contemporary American politics, Hillary Clinton.

Damien Chazelle, Athina Rachel Tsangari, and as noted at the top, Cate Blanchett are among the artists set to premiere new long-form narratives in the Berlinale Series program:

  • Chazelle directs the first two episodes of The Eddy, a musical drama for Netflix starring André Holland (Moonlight), Joanna Kulig (Cold War), Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games), and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and set in a jazz club in Paris.
  • Tsangari promises a merging of “television with cinema, drama with screwball comedy” in Trigonometry, a rom-com centering on a London couple who take in a roomie to help pay the rent.
  • Blanchett stars alongside Yvonne Strahvoski (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Dominic West (The Wire) in Stateless, the six-part drama she’s cocreated that’s set in a detention center in the Australian desert.
  • Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country) and Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) direct another Australian drama, Mystery Road 2, in which Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) takes on a grisly case in a small town.
  • Jason Segel’s Dispatches from Elsewhere features Sally Field, André Benjamin, and Richard E. Grant in a story centering on an institute that has created an alternative environment that may not be as magical as it first appears.
  • In C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married), a series set in Quebec in 1974, two couples cope with life without their kids once they’ve sent them off to summer camp.
  • Marvin Kren’s Freud will be the first Netflix original series from Austria. Set in Vienna in 1886, the story tracks the future father of psychoanalysis as he teams up with an unstable police commissioner and a strange medium to hunt down a serial killer.
  • Twenty-two-year-old Cathrine’s gotta have it in Sex, a Danish series created by Clara Mendes and directed by Amalie Næsby Fick.

Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson are following up on The Green Fog (2017) with the nineteen-minute Stump the Guesser, one of twenty-four films from eighteen countries lined up for this year’s Berlinale Shorts. And the full program for Perspektive Deutsches Kino, which spotlights young and upcoming German filmmakers, is now complete. With Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann) playing a mother haunted by all-too-real nightmares, Michael Venus’s Sleep is sure to be one of the section’s big draws. Berlinale 2020 opens on February 20 and runs through March 1.

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