Typically quiet Cannes in the South of France perked up on Monday and Tuesday as workers with trucks and cranes placed signage, banners and large movie billboards along the Croisette in time for Wednesday’s opening night. The Festival de Cannes is set to kick-off its 2007 edition with Wong Kar-wai‘s “My Blueberry Nights,” the anticipated English language debut from the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker who is such a favorite of the festival that his image — arms held high — graces the Cannes poster this year (and a still from his “In the Mood for Love” served as last year’s poster). On a warm Tuesday afternoon, Wong walked along the Croisette, seemingly unnoticed in his trademark dark glasses as he headed towards the Grand Hotel just about 24 hours before his premiere. Festival observers and fans certainly breathed a slight sigh of relief at the sight of the director. Just three years ago Wong arrived a day late with a wet print of “2046,” forcing festival organizers to postpone the film’s debut. His appearance is a good sign that Cannes will kick-off as scheduled.
Actress Maggie Cheung, a frequent collaborator with Wong Kar wai, is among the jurors who will judge Wong’s film and the other 21 titles in competition. She will be joined by actress Toni Collette from Australia, director and actress Maria de Medeiros from Portugal, director and actress Sarah Polley from Canada, director Marco Bellocchio from Italy, writer Orhan Pamuk from Turkey, director and actor Michel Piccoli from France, and director Abderramane Sissako from Mauritania. Filmmaker Stephen Frears will preside as the jury president.
Festival planners confirmed Tuesday that the Cannes opening on Wednesday night will include an appearance by German actress Diane Kruger, as well as the world premiere of “Absurda,” a new short film made by David Lynch. It was said to be “dedicated to movie theatres as a surprise gift for the Festival, to mark its anniversary,” according to Cannes planners. As an added bonus during the launch ceremony, the event will be formally opened by Cannes veteran Manoel de Oliveira, noted as the only director to have made films ever since the silent era, and Princess Shu-Qi. [Eugene Hernandez]
New Faces in New Places on The Croisette
The Marche du Film may officially kick-off alongside the festival on Wednesday in Cannes, but for many industry attendees here in France, the market has been underway for days. Some buyers began setting up their hotel office suites along the Croisette last Thursday, and on Monday and Tuesday, sellers had already booked full days of meetings with buyers. The market began with a number of early announcements aimed at drawing the interest of those arriving in advance, some notices also highlighting changes and a number of new companies.
The biggest shift ahead of Cannes this year came with last month’s announcement of the creation of Dreamachine, a major new sales, production and financing firm formed by the merger of HanWay Films and Celluloid Dreams. Headed by Jeremy Thomas and Hengameh Panahi as co-chairs and Tim Haslam as CEO, the new outfit is officially debuting here in Cannes with a high-profile roster that includes Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud‘s “Persepolis” in competition, Harmony Korine‘s “Mister Lonely” in the Un Certain Regard section and Tom Kalin‘s “Savage Grace” in the Director’ Fortnight section.
Another prominent combination that may have insiders buzzing is the launch of Magnetik Media, Mario Kassar and Erick Feitshan‘s new international sales and distribution company that will also have the principles consulting independent producers on development, production and feature film distribution. Among the films on its launch slate, from Relativity Media (with U.S. distribution from Lionsgate), are James Mangold‘s project “3:10 to Yuma” (currently in post-production) and Rob Minkoff‘s “Forbidden Kingdom,” now shooting in China. Also on the slate are Brian DePalma‘s “Untouchables: Capone Rising” with Nicholas Cage, a prequel to the 1987 film, “The Untouchables.”
Shooting Gallery and Film Movement founder Larry Meistrich and Ari D. Friedman are also making news. The two have launched Nehst Media Enterprises, a new film production, financing and distribution company. Nehst, pronounced “next” (from the old English spelling of “Next”), is aimed at producing everything from feature films and television to web content and other “unique spin off products and services,” in the words of an announcement by Meistrich. The two are joined on the Nehst team by producer Dana Offenbach, president of the production group, former Miramax and Focus Features executive Bill Keys as president of production, and Fusion Media founder Jeff Silverstein as head of web content and the company’s consumer network.
Industry veteran Bingham Ray is another familiar face in a new place this year. The former UA head is the new president of Kimmel Distribution, the new wholly-owned division of Los Angeles-based financing and production company Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. Ray is now leading the company’s theatrical acquisitions effort for worldwide distribution in conjunction with Kimmel International.
Other new companies launching in Cannes this year include Antwerp-based Corsan, which is kicking off its sales and distribution arm, Corsan World Sales, at the Cannes Market. Headquartered in Belgium, the new division is headed by Catherine Vandeleene. [Eugene Hernandez]
American Pavilion: Going Green, Hanging Out and Catching a Celeb or Two
“Our main purpose is hospitality,” said American Pavilion head Julie Sisk Tuesday afternoon in Cannes as the finishing touches to this year’s Pavilion were taking shape. “Forty percent of our members are non-American.” Returning for its 19th year in its prime seafront location, the American Pavilion, re-branded this year as Am Pav, continues to chart a course separate from the traditional marketing and local production promotion familiar at many of the other 35 nations’ pavilions. The Americans arrived in 1989 following the British who were the first to set up a meeting place, and continues to attract badge holders of all stripes, right on up to the festival’s biggest names.
“Everybody who is here passes through because we have so many different services. Other Pavilions don’t provide a space to ‘hang out,'” continued Sisk.
Providing a refuge between screenings is not Am Pav’s only purpose. The Pavilion has organized high-profile chats again this year that will certainly attract industry and press alike. This week’s first big draw is Cannes opening night director Wong Kar-Wai with Norah Jones, who stars in Wong’s “My Blueberry Nights,” on Friday afternoon. Harmony Korine (“Mister Lonely“), Vincent Paonnaud and Marjane Satrapi (“Persepolis”) andTom Kalin (“Saving Grace”) will participate in a directors’ panel on Saturday, while Michael Moore will discuss “Sicko” on Monday and New Line Cinema chiefs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne will participate on Tuesday.
Some of the visiting celebs are no doubt a favorite draw for the Pavilion’s 150 students who take part in its annual internship program (including one who will be working with indieWIRE). Culinary students and grads working for their MBAs have joined the traditional film students in this year’s group hoping to network and experience some of the largesse of the world’s most glamorous film festival. “Michael Moore and Stephen Frears are two [personalities] that have been particularly gracious with their time [with students],” added Sisk.
The environment is also a major focus for Sisk and the Pavilion. Last year, “An Inconvenient Truth” sponsored the Pavilion’s recycling program, while this year, the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced “The 11th Hour” will sponsor the “cost” for keeping Am Pav green. “We’ve been recycling the last four to five years, which is not the easiest thing to do in France,” said Sisk. “The festival thought we were crazy because of the recycling program… I know I’ve been singing a lonely song here for five years, [but] it’s such a nice place and it’s getting trashed.”
And, it appears that the Pavilion’s efforts have started to take root with the festival itself. This year, fest representatives promoted the virtues of recycling as attendees picked up their credentials. Perhaps a good start. [Brian Brooks]
IETFF Spotlights Emerging Talent in Pre-Cannes Event in Monte Carlo
Prior to taking on the Croisette, a select group of press, industry and filmmakers ventured east to Monaco for the first International Emerging Talent Film Festival, which opened at the Principality’s Grimaldi Forum Sunday evening with the European premiere of Thom Fitzgerald‘s three-paneled look at the AIDS crisis, “3 Needles.” The festival, which officially unveiled itself at an event just prior to Cannes ’06 in Cannes, is positioning itself as a catalyst to support emerging talent from around the world, but especially regions not always on the radar. “The IETFF Association [was] founded to help and encourage a tie with the film industry [to encourage] emerging cinema,” said the festival’s director Marco Orsini during opening remarks. “When we talk about cinema, it’s not just from film schools in New York or London, but people from around the world.”
The festival screened 22 films from 20 countries, with many spotlighting the plight of the human condition. The international premiere of director Jason Russell‘s heart-wrenching “Invisible Children” screened Monday morning to a theater of mostly school-aged children who visited the festival from the area. The local students witnessed via the film the horrors of people their age in Northern Uganda who have been kidnapped to become soldiers in a civil war that is the longest continuing conflict in Africa. Russell, often surprised by the caliber of questions asked by his young audience, solicited their help in bringing attention and material aid to the ‘invisible children.’ “The biggest goal for us is how this war can end. Most of our donations are like $20 from high school kids, and we’ve raised over $6 million.” Russell now hopes to raise similar support in Europe.
Sending off IETFF’s Cannes-bound attendees was Paul Friedman‘s “Sand and Sorrow.” Narrated by George Clooney, the film gives an “unparalleled access” to the plight of Darfur. Though the content of this year’s inaugural IETFF may have often spotlighted the tragic, the festival itself hopes to elevate disadvantaged regions through filmmaking. This year, the festival will sponsor would-be filmmakers from Ethiopia via its Global Film Expression program, an ambitious project that will, hopefully, add more to the cinematic experience in the future. [Brian Brooks]
The latest from the 2007 Festival de Cannes is available anytime in indieWIRE’s special section.