Back to IndieWire

2016 Cannes Film Festival: What You Need To Know About These 10 Competition Titles

2016 Cannes Film Festival: What You Need To Know About These 10 Competition Titles

All this week, Indiewire will be rolling out our annual Cannes Film Festival Preview, including just about everything you need to know about the festival’s offerings, from the talent behind their creation, to why it’s at Cannes and what we can expect from the final product. Consider these your Cannes cheat sheets, packed with the kind of information and insight you can’t get anywhere else. Check back every day this week to learn more about the films that are poised to make this year’s festival one to remember. 

READ MORE: Indiewire’s Complete 2016 Cannes Film Festival Preview

“Toni Erdman”

Who Made It? German director Maren Ade, whose sophomore effort “Everyone Else” was a tense relationship drama about a couple whose bonds are tested over the course of a Mediterranean vacation. It won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009; Ade hasn’t made another feature since. 
Why It Might Be Great: Ade’s first narrative effort showed her penchant for developing intimate moments out of a story involving two close-knit characters; “Toni Erdman” aims to do that as well: The film co-stars Peter Simonischek as a father attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter, played by Sandra Huller. One source working on the film says “every moment is bittersweet joy.” 
What’s It Doing at Cannes? Ade’s last film was such a breakout success that it instantly catapulted her to global acclaim; she’s long overdue for being singled out at the world’s grandest film festival. As one of two women directors in this year’s competition, her presence is especially significant for the festival’s image this year. 
When Can I See It? The Match Factory is selling the film at Cannes and will certainly be angling for buyers with experience in the specialty market. The Cinema Guild enjoyed great success with “Everyone Else,” so expect it and other companies of that scale to be taking a close look at the film for a U.S. release. -Eric Kohn

“Julieta”

Who Made It? The world-renowned director Pedro Almodóvar, who is both an Academy and Cannes favorite. With a deep filmography that includes “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her,” the Academy Award-winning Spaniard is set to continue his trend of acclaimed filmmaking with “Julieta.”

Why It Might Be Great: “Julieta” is inspired by an amalgamation of three short stories by the Nobel Prize winning Canadian writer Alice Munro — “Chance,” “Soon” and “Silence.” When Julieta loses her husband, Xoan, her life begins to spiral out of control. And to make matters worse her daughter recently turned 18 and inexplicably ran away from home. But as Julieta exhaustively searches for her daughter, she comes to realize that she knows very little about her. With a native cast that includes veteran Emma Suárez and newcomer Adriana Ugarte, Almodóvar’s newest venture is set to shake the emotional core of its viewers as it deals with the unpleasant notion of disconnection between mother and daughter.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Almodóvar is a Cannes regular, having picked up three awards during his time at the internationally revered festival. And the fact that this is Almodovar’s twentieth feature makes it almost a certainty that Cannes would continue that tradition and hopefully see Almodóvar finally pick up his much deserved Palme d’Or.

When Can I See It? “Julieta” has already been picked up for distribution by Warner Bros. and will be distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics, who have had a strong history of being frontrunners at the Oscars. The film was released on April 8 in Spain and is set to have its international debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where it will compete for the Palme d’Or. -Riyad Mamedyarov

“Personal Shopper”

Who Made It? Olivier Assayas, the renowned French director who last competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes two years ago with the meditative drama “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

Why It Might Be Great: The plot is certainly intriguing — all that’s known of the story is that it’s a ghost story set in the underworld of the Parisian fashion scene — but the project excitingly marks the filmmakers’ second outing with Kristen Stewart. Stewart’s last go around with Assayas resulted in her revelatory work in “Clouds,” which many pundits have pegged as her best role ever (she even became the first American actress to win a Cesar Award), and the fact she’s moving into the lead role for “Shopper” suggests the two artists are hitting a collaborative high. Has Assayas found his new muse? It’s too early to judge, but all eyes are certainly looking to their new project with very high expectations.  

What’s It Doing at Cannes? France loves shining a light on filmmakers from home (see Jacques Audiard winning the Palme for “Dheepan” last year), and Assayas is one of the country’s most internationally beloved filmmakers. Pair that with Kristen Stewart, who has fully emerged as one of the most exciting actresses on the international circuit, and “Personal Shopper” has the prestige power Cannes loves.

When Can I See It? French distributor Les Films du Losange will be releasing the film in its home country on October 19, so we’re guessing a fall launch in the states is most likely. IFC Films already has domestic rights to the movie, so they’ll debut it in the midst of awards season or wait for a winter 2016 launch, similar to the strategy on “Clouds.” -Zack Sharf

“American Honey”

Who Made It? Andrea
Arnold, who previously hit the Croisette with the Jury Prize-winning “Red
Road” and “Fish Tank.”

Why It Might Be Great: Arnold’s
first film since 2011’s brutally overlooked “Wuthering Heights”
adaptation has been a long-time passion project for the lauded British
director. Featuring a compelling cast of known quantities (Shia LaBeouf), rising
stars (Riley Keough) and total newbies (Sasha Lane), the film follows a ragtag
group of magazine sellers as they zigzag across the country. The drama was shot entirely on location in the Midwest and will feature
a soundtrack that includes E-40, Kevin Gates, Fetty Wap, Bruce Springsteen and
others. Arnold crafted the film during her Filmmaker in Residency stint (the first of its kind) with the Film Society of Lincoln Center back in 2013.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Arnold is a Cannes regular (of her four feature films,
three have made their bow at the festival, including “American
Honey”), so the announcement of any new Arnold offering is typically
expected to be followed by a Cannes debut. It’s not just an obvious fit, it’s a
natural one.

When Can I See It? Soon,
actually. A24 picked up rights to the film in January, and is reportedly
planning a release sometime in the second half of this year. -Kate Erbland

“The Unknown Girl”

Who Made It? The Dardennes Brothers, the legendary Belgian filmmakers who are pretty much icons of the Cannes Film Festival after winning the prestigious Palme d’Or twice for “Rosetta” (1999) and “L’Enfant.” They’ve also been honored with Best Screenplay for “Le Silence de Lorna” (2008) and the Grand Prix for “The Kid With the Bike” (2011), among others.

Why It Might Be Great: “The Unknown Girl” marks the duo’s return to Cannes after dazzling audiences two years ago “Two Days, One Night.” While they took a rare detour with “Two Days” by casting an international star in Marion Cotillard, “Unknown Girl” goes back to their roots and should provide a breakthrough for Adèle Haenel, a two-time Cesar Award winner who has yet to make much of an impression on American audiences. The film tells the story of a doctor who succumbs to guilt after a patient she refused to see winds up dead. The passing inspires the doctor to find out who the deceased was, and it’s a simple story that should result in the powerful humanism and realism the Dardennes are known for.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? When you have as many Cannes victories as the Dardennes, always expect an invitation to the party.

When Can I See It? The drama is already set to be released in Europe starting in October, and we’re guessing that an awards season launch is to be expected in the U.S. as well, especially after “Two Days” earned Cotillard a Best Actress nomination. -ZS

“It’s Only the End of the World”

Who Made It? Xavier Dolan, the writer-director-actor who has become something of a Cannes golden boy over the past several years. His feature film debut “I Killed My Mother” won the Art Cinema Award, the Prix Regards Jeunes and the SACD Prize in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar in 2009, while his nearly three hour romance, “Laurence Anyways,” won star Suzanne Celement the Cannes Best Actress Prize. His masterful “Mommy” tied for the coveted Cannes Jury Prize two years ago, and now he’s returning to the Croisette to compete for the Palme d’Or with “It’s Only the End of the World.”

Why It Might Be Great: Starring some of the biggest French stars on the planet, including Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, “End of the World” follows a terminally ill writer as he returns home after 12 years to tell his family about his impending death. Not much else is known about the story, but that small synopsis is fully ripe with the kind of pulsating family drama we already know Dolan is a master at ripping open. Plus, with a cast this remarkable, there’s no telling how high Dolan’s dramatic intensities will soar. The filmmaker has been ascending the Cannes ranks for years now, and this new drama might be what it takes for him to finally win the Palme.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? All but one of Dolan’s films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, which made “End of the World” a no-brainer for a debut on the Croisette.

When Can I See It? The film does not have a U.S. distributor as of now, but that should change quickly once the movie premieres. Whoever does pick it up will have to decide whether to drop it in the fall and compete for the Foreign Language Oscar, or wait until the winter or spring of 2017. -ZS

“Slack Bay”

Who Made It? Bruno Dumont, who last popped up at Cannes two years ago with his miniseries-sized mystery “Li’l Quinquin.”

Why It Might Be Great: In an interview we published last week, Kino Lorber president and CEO Richard Lorber discussed the idea behind buying the film for distribution almost sight-unseen. Lorber opted to take the jump against a heated market, but given Dumont’s quality track record, the comedic subject matter and the strength of the script and select clips, that seems like a solid gamble.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Oddly enough, even though this will be Dumont’s fifth go-around at Cannes (after picking up the Grand Jury prize twice), this will be the first time that he’s had back-to-back directorial efforts play the fest.

When Can I See It? With a distribution deal already in place, this should hit arthouse theaters and VOD sometime in the next year or so. -Steve Greene

“Paterson”

Who Made It? Jim Jarmusch, whose Iggy Pop documentary “Gimme Danger” is also playing as one of the festival’s Midnight Screenings.

Why It Might Be Great: Rising star Adam Driver plays a bus driver and poet in present day Paterson, New Jersey, the city at the center of William Carlos Williams’ epic poem of the same name. The cast is short on stars, though interestingly includes teens Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, the stars of Wes Anderson’s 2012 comedy “Moonrise Kingdom.” “Paterson” is Amazon Studios’ second original movie following Spike Lee’s 2015 crime drama “Chi-Raq.”

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Jarmusch is a Cannes regular who’s won numerous awards at the festival, including the Grand Prix in 2006 for “Broken Flowers.” Several of his films have also been nominated for the Palme d’Or prize, including 2014’s “Only Lovers Left Alive.”

When Can I See It? Amazon is planning a theatrical release for later this year. -Graham Winfrey

“Staying Vertical”

Who Made It? French director Alain Guiraudie, who shocked Cannes two years ago with his homoerotic thriller “Stranger By the Lake,” a critically-acclaimed look at several men who meet up for liaisons in the woods. Guiraudie made his directorial debut 15 years ago with “Sunshine for the Poor.” 
Why It Might Be Great: The filmmaker’s disquieting approach to tackling themes of unspoken desires and fears continues with this intriguing relationship drama, in which a filmmaker searching for a wolf winds up seduced by a shepherdess, who later gives birth to their child, whom she promptly abandons. The filmmaker winds up raising the child alone…and that’s where the mystery surrounding the actual substance of Guiraudie’s latest effort begins. Expect a delicate drama with more than one abrupt twist. 
What’s It Doing at Cannes? Guiraudie is following the most natural trajectory toward membership in Cannes’ elite club of auteurs: “Stranger By the Lake” played in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and now he’s cracked the main competition. 
When Can I See It? Wild Bunch is settling the film, which already has distribution in France. Strand Releasing picked up “Stranger By the Lake” out of Cannes and it’s likely the buyer will have its eye on this one as well, though it may find an even bigger home depending on its reception. -EK

“Aquarius” 

Who Made It? Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho, creator of many experimental films from the 1990s onwards, including the critically acclaimed “Neighboring Sounds.”

Why It Might Be Great: Filho’s last film “Neighboring Sounds” put him on the festival radar after it screened at fests as wide-ranging as London, Rotterdam and TIFF. Being selected as the Brazilian submission for best foreign-language film at the 2013 Academy Awards only added to the filmmaker’s growing reputation. Not much is known about “Aquarius,” except for the cast, which features Brazilian TV superstar Sonia Braga, who has been nominated for three Golden Globes and an Emmy award, two of which were for “The Burning Season,” and that it supposedly involves an element of time travel.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? While it’s not as much of an obvious choice as some other picks and may befuddle some, the recently elevated pedigree of the director and lead actress may give us some indication as to why “Aquarius” is in competition for the coveted Palme d’Or.

When Can I See It? A U.S. distributor hasn’t picked it up yet, but if it wins at Cannes, there’s no doubt that will change rapidly. -Bryn Gelbart

READ MORE: 2016 Cannes Film Festival Announces Lineup, Including New Films From Steven Spielberg, Jodie Foster and Many More

Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Festivals newsletter here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged ,