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Cannes Wish List: 44 Films We Hope Make the Festival’s 2016 Lineup

Cannes Wish List: 44 Films We Hope Make the Festival's 2016 Lineup

Cannes always strikes a balance of art and commerce, world-class filmmakers (mostly male) and red carpet allure. Will festival director Thierry Fremaux bow to the pressures of French sales agents and power brokers and cram the Competition again with French auteurs? (There were so many viable contenders last year that respected veteran Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days” wound up in Director’s Fortnight.) This is one of several questions swirling around the anticipated lineup, which traditionally lands in late April.

One title that might make the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” trajectory from Sundance to Cannes to the fall festivals is rookie director Nate Parker’s lauded “Birth of a Nation “(Fox Searchlight, October 7), which is more likely to wind up in Un Certain Regard. Kenneth Lonergan’s later November release “Manchester by the Sea” (Amazon/Roadside Attractions) will likely wait for the fall awards circuit. 

READ MORE: George Miller to Lead Cannes 2016 Competition Jury

Among the anticipated Cannes no-shows possibly heading for Venice this year — either because they are not finished or not wanted — are Tom Ford’s latest “Nocturnal Animals” (Focus Features), Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” (Open Road FIlms, September 16), which pushed back its summer opening date, as well as the Damien Chazelle musical “La La Land” (Lionsgate, December 16), Lucretia Martel’s “Zama,” Michael Almereyda’s “Marjorie Prime” (starring John Hamm), Clint Eastwood’s heroic true story “Sully” (starring Tom Hanks) and “The Light Between Oceans,” directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz (DreamWorks/Disney, September 2).

Some filmmakers say they aren’t ready (often as cover) and then deliver after all, as Jacques Audiard did last year with “Dheepan,” which wound up collecting the coveted Palme d’Or. And many filmmakers unwisely show films that are essentially works-in-progress — see “Southland Tales,” “Enter the Void” and “Fear and Loathing Las Vegas” — only to regret it when boos begin. 

But that’s not what directors think about when they beg their distributors to let them go to Cannes; they dream about walking up the famed red carpet to the sound of clicking photographers and a standing ovation that goes on forever. The Cannes Film Festival will take place from May 11-22, in Cannes, France. –Anne Thompson

Studio Players

“Money Monster,” directed by Jodie Foster
“Broadcast News” and “The Newsroom” meet “The Big Short” and “The Truman Show” as Cannes perennial Jodie Foster (“Taxi Driver,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “The Beaver”) directs old pals George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a high-stakes financial world thriller. Clooney’s a popular Wall Street TV guru held hostage by an angry victim of financial malfeasance (Jack O’Connell); Roberts plays Clooney’s producer who beams the story live as everyone scrambles to solve the crime. Brit TV stars Caitriona Balfe (“Outlander”) and Dominic West (“The Affair”) offer support. -Anne Thompson

“The BFG,” directed by Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg presided over the 2013 Cannes jury; “The BFG” (which Disney will release on July 1) would be his fourth film to debut Cannes, following screenplay-winner “Sugarland Express,” “E.T.,” and “The Color Purple.” Based on the Roald Dahl children’s classic, “The BFG” brings back Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the titular soft-hearted giant who befriends a young girl; Rebecca Hall co-stars. -AT

“The Last Face,” directed by Sean Penn
Former jury member and frequent red carpet walker Sean Penn returns to the directing chair after nine years for his fifth feature “The Last Face.” His first film “The Indian Runner” played Director’s Fortnight in 1991. Charlize Theron leads an international cast as a humanitarian aid exec who meets doctor Javier Bardem. Backed by Bill Pohlad’s River Road, this is an acquisition title. -AT

“The Nice Guys,” directed by Shane Black

Director Shane Black unveiled his 2005 debut feature “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” out of competition at Cannes; word is goofy ’70s comedy “The Nice Guys” (set for a May 20 opening, care of Warner Bros.) starring bumbling investigator Ryan Gosling and hit man Russell Crowe is set to play as an out-of-competition Midnight selection. The hilarious trailer has a “Big Lebowski” meets “Boogie Nights” feel. -AT

“Cafe Society,” directed by Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an out-of-competition Cannes regular (11 films, including “Irrational Man” and “Midnight in Paris”). His latest period comedy, $30-million “Cafe Society” stars Steve Carell and Blake Lively and reunites Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, and was picked up by deep-pocketed Amazon rather than his usual (and still-friendly) distributor Sony Pictures Classics. The film’s theatrical partner is yet to be named. -AT

“Untitled Howard Hughes Movie,” directed by Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty hasn’t directed a feature-length movie since 1998’s “Bulworth,” but this super-secret Howard Hughes biopic has been under wraps for much longer. Reportedly a passion project for the iconic actor-director going back several decades, the mysterious effort has generated a lot of attention over the past year as it has been rumored to be nearing completion. While insiders are skeptical that the film will make the cut at Cannes, which hasn’t exactly been celebrating Beatty a lot in recent years, we’re holding out hope. There is no greater world stage for cinema than Cannes, and Beatty certainly knows how to steal the spotlight. Thirty-five years after his epic directorial debut “Reds,” he’s long overdue for a comeback. –EK

Competition Auteurs

“Staying Vertical,” directed by Alain Guiraudie
French director Guiraudie 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. Just as that movie was shrouded in mystery, scant information is available about his follow-up, though it is said to take place “in the heart of France” and aim to “make the implausible plausible,” per Cineuropa. With the filmmaker’s disquieting approach to tackling themes involving unspoken desires and fears, he has steadily become the international film festival circuit’s best-kept secret, though “Stranger By the Lake” received enough exposure to change that equation, and “Staying Vertical” is well positioned to keep this newer stage of appreciation in flux. –Eric Kohn
“Loving,” directed by Jeff Nichols
Despite being best known for festival appearances within the U.S., from Sundance to SXSW, Nichols is no stranger to Cannes, as his 2012 offering “Mud” was a serious Palme d’Or contender and his breakthrough feature “Take Shelter” screened there the year before. For his next film — his second of 2016 behind the very well-reviewed “Midnight Special,” released earlier this year — Nichols is trying something new, telling the historic story of the Loving v. Virginia case. Featuring regulars like Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, and a new addition in Ruth Negga, the film is already set for an awards-friendly November release date. Cannes sure sounds like the right place to debut what should be another critical hit for the indie auteur. -Kate Erbland

“Elle,” directed by Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven was one of the few Hollywood filmmakers capable of making subversive blockbusters, with everything from “Robocop” to “Starship Troopers,” until he returned to his native Holland to enjoy an even greater amount of freedom. That led to “Black Book,” a 2006 box office hit for Sony Pictures Classics (likely poised to pounce on this) that proved the aging filmmaker had lost none of his penchant for gripping, suspenseful narratives rich with attitude. With his first French-language effort, “Elle,” the octogenarian Verhoeven is poised to prove his lasting capabilities yet again. A variation on the rape-revenge film, “Elle” stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman recovering from a home invasion who plots a uniquely unsettling plan for her reasserting her authority. Working with one of the great stars of global cinema in a genre bound to shock and intrigue its audiences, “Elle” seems to return to the smaller, character-driven efforts that marked the earlier days of the filmmaker’s career. To that end, it’s well-positioned to energize Verhoeven’s longstanding fans while generating some new ones in the process. -EK

“Julieta,” directed by Pedro Almodovar
The lauded Spanish filmmaker has frequently brought his features to Cannes to great acclaim – from 1999’s “All About My Mother,” which earned him best director at the fest, to 2004’s festival opener “Bad Education,” all the way up to the 2009 Palme d’Or contender “Broken Embraces” –  and if Almodovar has a new film in the works, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume it will end up at the French festival. And, sure enough, “Julieta” is a “hard-hitting drama” inspired by the stories of Alice Munro and has already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics (though it lacks a release date) and is planning an early April release in Spain (one that would not knock it out of Cannes eligibility). The time-spanning feature is already picking up serious accolades from European critics, and is believed to be a return to form for the auteur, making Cannes a perfect stop the heavily anticipated new offering. -KE

“Neruda,” directed by Pablo Larrain
Chilean director Larrain has quickly emerged as the great chronicler of his country’s darker challenges, from the lingering memories of the Pinochet dictatorship in his fascinating trilogy of dramas — “Tony Manero,” “Post Mortem” and the Oscar-nominated “No” — to this year’s “The Club,” which revolved around a houseful of disgraced priests. Larrain’s popularity has made him more productive than ever, as he’s cranked out a series for HBO Latin America (“Profugos”) and at one point was developing a remake of “Scarface.” Among his many projects in the pipeline, this one’s rumored to be in the running for Cannes. Reteaming the director with his “No” and “Profugos” star Gael Garcia Bernal, “Neruda” focuses on the life of inspector Oscar Peluchoneau, who led the charge against Communist persecution. As with “No,” the new movie suggests another deeply involving historical thriller rich with cultural purpose. -EK

“The Handmaid,” directed by Park Chan-Wook
The Grand Prix-winning South Korean filmmaker has a long-standing relationship with the festival (film lore holds that, as head judge in 2004, he personally pushed for the original “Oldboy” to win the Palme d’Or, though his pick didn’t make the cut), though he hasn’t been back with a film of his own since 2009, when his horror offering “Thirst” won a Jury Prize. There’s no better way to return to the Croisette than with a period-set thriller that looks set to combine big romance, major crime, dreamy costuming and restrictive social mores. We’re swooning already. -KE

“Slack Bay,” directed by Bruno Dumont
French director Bruno Dumont’s films are both patient, suspenseful character studies and subversive statements. His sprawling miniseries “P’tit Quinquin” was the toast of the international film scene, but Dumont’s been a festival darling ever since his 1997 debut “The Life of Jesus.” Faith is both sacred and profane in Dumont’s films, with quietly tragic “Camille Claudel 1915” and the twisted “Outside Satan” illustrating the two extremes of his work. “Slack Bay” finds him re-teaming with “Camille Claudel” star Juliet Binoche for a dark comedy about mysterious disappearances on the beaches of France — a premise that recalls “P’tit Quinquin,” which is an exciting possibility for anyone lucky enough to have experienced Dumont’s last, sprawling masterpiece. This is a filmmaker operating at the height of his powers, and Cannes would be wise to continue showcasing his work. –EK

“The Unknown Girl,” directed by the Dardenne Brothers
Belgian sibling filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been Cannes regulars for years, and are among the few who won the Palme d’Or for two films. Their naturalistic approach to exploring working class lives is a paragon of modern kitchen sink realism, and they’ve yet to truly strike out. The duo last came to Cannes with “Two Days, One Night,” which ultimately garnered Marion Cotillard an Oscar nomination (though, strangely, the brothers have yet to land a nomination themselves). “The Unknown Girl” sounds like familiar territory for them: A young doctor (Adele Haenel) encounters a young woman who dies after refusing surgery, then decides to uncover her identity. As with many Dardennes films, the simplistic plot sounds like only a starting point for the brothers to explore a broader socioeconomic issue through an intimate lens. Their track record suggests this one’s a lock for competition at Cannes if it’s ready for the spot. –EK

“Voyage of Time,” directed by Terrence Malick
First look photos have slowly been trickling in for what might just be Terrence Malick’s most ambitious film ever, which leads us to believe the movie is in post-production and potentially ready for a Cannes birth. Malick is a favorite on the Croisette – “The Tree of Life” won the Palme d’Or in 2011 – and his latest features two versions, one narrated by Cate Blanchett and the other by Brad Pitt, and that’s the kind of star power the festival adores. “Voyage of Time” is a montage film (think “Koyaanisqatsi”) that tracks the evolution of humanity through space and time, and it’s the kind of heady experimental art film that could really make its mark with a Cannes debut. You can never tell just how much time Malick needs to tinker with his features, but Cannes seems like the safest bet for “Voyage of Time.” -Zack Sharf

“Family Photos,” directed by Cristian Mungiu
Romanian director Cristian Mungiu surprised us all when it was announced last summer that his new film had been completed. Shot in secret for two months, the project officially wrapped in August, making Cannes the smartest bet for a splashy festival premiere (especially since it didn’t show up at Berlin last month). Mungiu is no stranger to Cannes, as he won the Palme d’Or for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” in 2006, and his new film, about parenting in a small Romanian town, is the first to feature a male protagonist. Mungiu’s history at the festival, plus a new direction for him as a storyteller, is bound to catch the eyes of festival programmers—as well as distributor IFC. -ZS

“The Untamed,” directed by Amat Escalante
Back in 2013, Escalante had one of the most buzzed-about titles of the fest. In “Heli,” he captured the unflinching brutality of cartel violence in his native Mexico, filtering the story through the experiences of the youngest generation. From early reports about “The Untamed,” Escalante will be working with a slightly bigger canvas and possibly dipping into the realm of the metaphysical. As a social issue parable, the story (and its look at the country and the greater world beyond) makes it an ideal fit for the festival, where “Heli” already earned Escalante a Best Directing prize. –Steve Greene
“The Neon Demon,” directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Refn’s latest, a female-centric horror film that again returns him to the wilds of Los Angeles, has already been picked up for release by Amazon, but it won’t hit screens until the summer. Premiering it at Cannes, where Refn has debuted films like “Drive” (which won him Best Director) and “Only God Forgives” (which didn’t win him anything), is a natural fit for what sounds like another stylish, slick thriller from an auteur who could do with a bounce back. Featuring a cast that includes names like Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone and Alessandro Nivola, “The Neon Demon” promises to delve into the naval-gazing of Hollywood with gusto and Refn’s trademark twisted take on the world. -KE

“American Honey,” directed by Andrea Arnold
Arnold’s long-time passion project also marks her first foray into filming in the U.S., and it features one of her most intriguing storylines yet. Focused on a group of ramblin’ young magazine sellers who criss-cross the country while hawking their wares and trying to have a little bit of fun, the film reportedly features a dazzling Americana-laced soundtrack and unexpected drama. Kitted out with an exciting cast that includes Shia La Beouf and Riley Keough, it’s already one of the most interesting entries on the 2016 calendar (A24 will release it in the second part of the year), and it should stand out just as mightily at Cannes. -KE

READ MORE: Director Naomi Kawase Set to Lead 2016 Cannes Cinéfondation and Short Film Jury

“Paris is Happening,” directed by Bertrand Bonello
Cannes loves givings its hometown some love by shining a light on French filmmakers – director Jacques Audiard even won the Palme d’Or last year for “Dheepan” – and it seems that Bertrand Bonello could very well be the director the country throws itself behind this year. The director has had a lauded history with the festival – he’s had three features there, including “Saint Laurent” in 2014, and he won the FIPRESCI prize in 2001 for “The Pornographer” – making him almost a shoe-in to appear with his latest. The movie deals with a group of French adolescents on a journey through the streets of Paris, and it’s the kind of local drama that Cannes loves to feature. -ZS

“It’s Only the End of the World,” directed by Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan can do no wrong in our book, and he certainly can do no wrong in Cannes’ book either considering all of his films have premiered there. The director has also found success on the Croisette, winning awards like the SACD Prize (“I Killed My Mother”) and the Jury Prize (“Mommy”), meaning his new film, “It’s Only the End of the World,” should have no problem premiering this May. Strengthening its chances is the fact the film stars some of France’s biggest stars, including Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. Consider this as close of a lock as possible. -ZS
“Paterson,” directed by Jim Jarmusch
Jarmusch is a Cannes regular, but he hasn’t shown up at the festival with a new offering since he brought the Palme d’Or-nominated “Only Lovers Left Alive” to the Croisette in 2013. Good news then that auteur has got a slew of new projects coming out fast, including the very compelling “Paterson,” which features Adam Driver as a bus driver/poet attempting to, well, we’re not quite sure, because the film has been kept under wraps for many months now. We do know that it centers on Driver’s character’s humdrum life, which exists in direct opposition to his wife’s ever-changing routine. Rumor is, it’s ready to go, and though Amazon will release it later this year, Cannes is easily and obviously the perfect premiere spot for the feature. -KE

“Eternity,” directed by Tran Anh Hung
It’s been over a decade and a half since the director’s last Cannes title, 2000’s “The Vertical Ray of the Sun,” but Tran Anh Hung is back not only with another adaptation of a well-regarded novel (his last film, “Norwegian Wood,” brought Haruki Murakami’s book of the same name to the screen), but he has a powerhouse actress trio at its core: Audrey Tautou, Berenice Bejo and Melanie Laurent. The turn of the 20th century setting of the generation-spanning period piece should be a prime canvas for a return to Cannes, twenty years after it helped Hung jump-start his career. -SG

“The Woman in the Silver Plate,” directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Not much is known about Kiyoshi Kurosawa upcoming drama “The Woman in the Silver Plate,” but its international ensemble – Mathieu Amalric, Tahar Rahim, Olivier Gourmet, Malik Zidi and Constance Rousseau – is exactly the kind of cast that was born to rock the Cannes red carpet. There’s also Kurosawa’s lauded career. The Japenese filmmaker is best known for his horror efforts, but in recent years he’s switched things up to massive acclaim. His relationship drama “Journey to the Shore” premiered at Cannes last year in the Un Certain Regard section and earned Kurosawa the Best Director prize. Will he return to Cannes so quickly? We sure hope so. -ZS

“The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez,” directed by Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders’ last film, “Everything Will Be Fine,” opted for a Berlin premiere, but something tells us that won’t be the case for “The Beautiful Days of Aranjeuz.” The drama was a popular title at the Cannes market last year, and it might show up this year for its world premiere. Surely Cannes programmers would be delighted for a Wenders debut, though the only thing up in the air is whether the film will be finished in time. The script is based on the play by Peter Handke and centers around a man and a woman sharing their thoughts on love over a summer night. This could be Wenders’ answer to “Before Sunset,” and Cannes will be the perfect place to set it free. -ZS

“The Secret Scripture,” directed by Jim Sheridan
The latest from Sheridan doesn’t yet have a U.S. release date (that its U.S. rights belong to the beleaguered Relativity isn’t helping matters), but it’s basically a shoo-in for inclusion at this year’s Cannes. Based on the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel by Sebastian Barry, the film tells the story of a long-time patient in an Irish mental hospital who sets out to commit her haunting story to a secret diary. The film features an all-star cast, led by Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrave playing the patient, Roseanne McNulty, during different periods in her life, along with Jack Reynor, Theo James and Erica Bana. -KE

“Personal Shopper,” directed by Olivier Assayas
Kristen Stewart’s post-“Twilight” career has so far found no greater asset than Olivier Assayas, the great French director whose “Clouds of Sils Maria” turned Stewart into the first American actress to win a Cesar award. The prolific Assayas knows how to capitalize on a strong collaboration, and has already completed another one with his star. While “Sils Maria” dealt with the performative challenges facing a disgruntled actress, “Personal Shopper” shifts focus to similar concerns in the fashion world. But the comparisons would appear to end there, as the movie is allegedly a ghost story, which would be a first for the director. But Assayas has never lacked for ambition in expanding his focus, and that possibility — along with Stewart’s own developing talent — makes “Personal Shopper” worthy of serious anticipation. –EK

“Oppenheimer Strategies,” directed by Joseph Cedar
The sleek-sounding political thriller starring Richard Gere will serve as Israeli director Cedar’s English-language debut, and it could return the “Footnote” director back to the Croisette. Cedar earned a best screenplay award for that film in 2011 (which then went on to garner him an Oscar nod for best foreign language film), and now that he’s poised to break into Hollywood in an even bigger way, taking his film to the festival that’s already shown him such love seems like the next natural step. -KE

“After the Storm,” directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s new film already has a release date in its hometown of Japan (May 21, 2016),  which means it will definitely be ready for its world premiere by the time Cannes roll around – does that make a festival debut certain? Considering Kore-eda is more or less an icon of the Croisette –  “Like Father, Like Son” was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2013 and won the Jury Prize, while “Our Little Sister” competed for the Palme last year – we think so. -ZS

“The Giant,” directed by Johannes Nyholm
Swedish director Johannes Nyholm has been making a name for himself at various European film festivals, but he’s yet to make a splashy debut at Cannes. That could all change this year’s thanks to “The Giant,” which screened as a work-in-progress at Goteborg’s Nordic Film Market at the very beginning of the year and will most likely be finished in time for a Cannes official premiere. The story centers around a 30-year old deformed man suffering from autism who escapes into an imaginary world where he is a 50-meter tall giant. With so much potential imagination on display, this could be the film that earns Nyholm a Cannes breakout. -ZS

“Forushande,” directed by Asghar Farhadi
If Asghar Farhadi’s latest is done in time, it would be a virtual lock for Cannes. With no new Kiarostami on the horizon, this would likely be the most anticipated entry from an established Iranian filmmaker. After a foray into French-language filmmaking with “The Past,” “Forushande” looks to be a return to the language and setting of “A Separation.” A tale of a family in turmoil dealing with stark, abrupt changes in their daily dynamic should have Farhadi working in prime storytelling territory. -SG

“I, Daniel Blake,” directed by Ken Loach
A competition slot would be a nice early 80th birthday present for the long-respected director. When “Jimmy’s Hall” premiered in 2014, there was talk that the film might be Loach’s swan song. Reports of his retirement were premature, as production began on “I, Daniel Blake” began in October. Although this isn’t a period piece like “Jimmy’s Hall” or his Palme d’Or winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,”, this title character’s working-class British family story should find Loach still working in comfortable territory. –SG

“Sierra Nevada,” directed by Cristi Puiu
Over a half a decade since his three-hour Un Certain Regard entry “Aurora,” the time seems to be right for a Puiu feature follow-up. Best known for 2005’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (which cracked the top 15 of our Best Films of the Decade poll back in 2009), “Sierra Nevada” would be a reunion for Puiu and actor Mimi Brănescu. With both this and Mungiu’s “Family Photos” in the mix, this would be a strong Cannes for Romania. –SG

Likely Sidebars

“Tramps,” directed by Adam Leon
After gliding into Un Certain Regard after his “Gimme the Loot” claimed the SXSW Grand Jury prize in 2012, Adam Leon looks to make a return journey with “Tramps.” The film wrapped production last fall and after bypassing Park City and Austin, Cannes seems like the most likely stopping place. Wherever it does find a premiere home, expect to see “Gimme the Loot” star Tashiana Washington to be part of this cast as well, alongside Callum Turner from “Green Room” and Mike Birbiglia, among others. –SG

“Free Fire,” directed by Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatley has quickly evolved from a quirky genre director with his debut “Down Terrance” and follow-up “Kill List” to one of U.K. cinema’s biggest rising stars. He just premiered his hectic social satire “High Rise” on the fall festival circuit and already has his biggest project to date in the pipeline. “Free Fire” stars Cillian Murphy and Brie Larson in a chamber piece set in 1978 and based around a single shootout unfolding at a warehouse between two warring gangs. Wheatley’s devious approach to blending humor and violence has led to several memorable results in a very short period of time, suggesting he’s more than ready to bring his black comedy skills to a bigger arena. –EK

“The Last Days of Louis XIV,” directed by Albert Serra
“Story of My Death” picked up its fare share of European festival acclaim after its 2013 Locarno premiere. The sparse approach to the tales of well-known characters from literary tradition placed Serra well within the frame of directors to watch. For his follow-up, Serra is moving to the pages of the history books. Chronicling the impending death of the French ruler, we’ll see if Serra can bring the same specific focus to another powdered-wig reimagining of a popular figure. -SG

“Big House,” directed by Jean Emmanuel Godart
Godart’s feature length debut stars Gérard Depardieu as the eponymous Big in what’s been billed as a drama and mystery, albeit one that’s been kept very under wraps. The film completed production last year, and is likely just looking for a splashy place to make a mark. It doesn’t get much better than Cannes. -KE

“The Circle,” directed by James Ponsoldt
James Pondsoldt has become a Sundance king over the last decade, premiering each of his four feature films at the Park City festival to unanimous acclaim. In movies like “Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The End of the Tour,” the director has revealed himself to be a master of sensitive human connection, but he’s yet to  debut a film at any international film festival. That could change with “The Circle,” his most ambitious project yet. Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt and Karen Gillan, the film is based on Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel about a young woman who joins a powerful Internet company that is full of dark conspiracies. Cannes would kill for this kind of star power, the only question is whether the film will be finished in time. -ZS

Off the Beaten Path

“Aquarius,” directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho
Filho made a significant splash back in 2012 with “Neighbouring Sounds,” a film that architectural and domestic ideas to illuminate greater themes in Brazilian society. While it didn’t play Cannes, “Neighbouring Sounds” had successful stops at Rotterdam and New Directors/New Films, eventually securing a stateside release as well. “Aquarius” will see Filho return to the familiar setting of an apartment building, this time with Sonia Braga playing our entry point into a specific world. (And if indications are correct, key character elements suggest this one will offer Filho to play around with certain plot logistics.) -SG 

“Apprentice,” directed by Boo Junfeng
As the director of the first Singaporean film to be invited to Cannes’ Critics Week with “Sandcastle” in 2010, Junfeng’s relationship with the festival is a special one. His newest feature, “Apprentice” is reportedly a psychological drama that follows a young correctional officer as he makes his way through the vicious world of a top Singapore prison, eventually falling under the sway of the institution’s chief executioner. And that would make him apprentice to what exactly, we wonder… -KE

“Lost in Paris,” directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon
Two-thirds of the filmmaking team behind 2011 Directors Fortnight opener “The Fairy” are back in the directors’ chairs for “Lost in Paris.” As with their previous output, they’ll again be starring as characters with whom they share names. This time around, Fiona won’t have wish-granting powers, but two will have Emmanuel Riva as a co-star, which is probably more magical anyway. Whether “Lost in Paris” keeps the frivolity of “The Fairy” or takes its unexpected-turns-following-the-introduction-of-a-new-character premise to a darker place, this should make for intriguing sidebar fare. -SG

“Planetarium,” directed by Rebecca Zlotowski
Zlotowski’s 2013 Cannes entry “Grand Central” tapped into the inherent drama of working at a nuclear reactor, tossing in some blistering chemistry between its two leads Tahar Rahim and Lea Seydoux for good measure. This time around, Zlotowski will give two sisters the story’s center stage, played by Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp. While “Grand Central” dealt with love in the face of possible mass destruction, the synopsis’ mention of ghosts suggests a similarly potent combination of family tribulations and the supernatural. -SG

“Grave,” directed by Julia Ducournau
Ducournau had a strong showing at her first Cannes back in 2011, when her short “Junior” earned her the Small Golden Rail award and a coveted Discovery Award nomination. She recently wrapped her feature-length debut, “Grave” (occasionally referred to as “Raw” by other outlets, though IMDb lists it as the former), a tasty little nugget about a vegetarian vet student who, oops, turns cannibal after her first taste of raw meat. Juicy. -KE

“Lion,” directed by Garth Davis
“Top of the Lake” director Davis assembled a stellar cast – including Rooney Mara, who could have quite a Cannes ahead of her, Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel – to tell the wrenching story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family in his native India, survived alone on the streets at age five, eventually being adopted by a kind Australian family. The Weinstein Company picked up the rights to the film at Cannes in 2014, so bringing back the final product to the festival would be one hell of a cherry on top of a compelling-sounding film. -KE

READ MORE: Laurent Lafitte Announced as Master of Ceremonies for 2016 Cannes Film Festival

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