Back to IndieWire

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

2016 Cannes Film Festival: What You Need To Know About These Other 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

“The Neon Demon”

Who Made It?
Nicolas Winding Refn, the divisive visual auteur who won Best Director at Cannes in 2011 for “Drive,” only to be booed and picked apart by critics two years later during the premiere of “Only God Forgives.”

Why It Might Be Great: If anyone is ready for a big comeback, it’s Nicolas Winding Refn, and what better place for a splashy return to greatness is there other than Cannes? Starring Elle Fanning, “The Neon Demon” is a dissection of fame, celebrity and art as it tells the story of a new model in Los Angeles who falls down the rabbit hole of stardom. The first trailer was an absolute stunner, teasing the kind of seductive imagery that only Refn seems capable of producing, while hinting at a dark side of Fanning that we’ve yet to see on the big screen.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Love him or hate him, Refn is one of the strongest visual filmmakers in the game, and Cannes has always been eager to show off his projects. Having a trophy for Best Director can’t hurt either. -Zack Sharf

When Can I See It? Amazon Studios will release “The Neon Demon” on June 24. -Zack Sharf

“From the Land of the Moon”

Who Made It? Nicole Garcia,
marking her eighth feature directorial outing. Garcia has been to Cannes three
times before, with two features in competition for the Palme d’Or (“Selon
Charlie” and “L’adversaire”), along with her debut short, “15 août,” which
competed for the Palme d’Or in the shorts section.

Why It Might Be Great: Along with
Jacques Fieschi, Garcia adapted Milena Agus’ novel
set after WWII, “Mal de Pierres,” to pull together a decade-spanning
story of a passionate woman torn apart by her own desires. With a cast that
includes Marion Cotillard as said conflicted woman, along with Louis Garrel and
Alex Brendemuhl, the film seems poised to be the festival’s dreamiest (and
sexiest) romantic addition.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Garcia’s
relationship with Cannes dates back to 1986, when her first short debuted in
competition at the festival. While she hasn’t been a Cannes mainstay over the
years, the festival has played home to other premieres for the French
filmmaker. With a film led by Cannes favorite Cotillard, the Croisette seems to
be the perfect venue to debut it.

When Can I See It? Sundance Selects
picked the film up just last month, reportedly on the strength of some early
footage shown at Berlin. Although no release date has been announced yet, the
distribution outfit clearly seems high on the project. It will be released in
France in mid-October, so perhaps we can expect an awards-season run stateside. -Kate Erbland

“Ma’ Rosa”

Who Made It?
Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza is bringing his newest entry to Cannes with “Ma’ Rosa.”

Why It Might Be Great: His first two Cannes features “Service” and “Kinatay” were nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the latter of which earned Mendoza the award for Best Director. His 2015 film “Taklub” did not run in competition, but received the Ecumenical Jury Prize Special Mention in the Un Certain Regard section. 

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Mendoza’s past successes at Cannes make it a no-brainer that he is returning for this year’s festival.

When Can I See It? Centerstage Productions in collaboration with Swift Entertainment Production have distributed a majority of Mendoza’s prior films – specifically the ones premiered at Cannes – so it is likely we will be seeing their names popping up not long after the film’s debut. -Bryn Gelbart

“I, Daniel Blake”

Who Made It? Legendary UK director Ken Loach, who claimed he was retiring from filmmaking after 2014’s “Jimmy’s Hall.” Clearly, he had at least one more film in him. 
Why It Might Be Great: Loach pioneered the art of kitchen sink realism in the sixties, but his ability to depict working class British stories never really waned. In recent years, films such as “The Angels’ Share” and “It’s a Free World” proved the aging filmmaker maintains his sharp window into modern British society. “I, Daniel Blake” is set to continue that focus with the tale of a carpenter dealing with state welfare following a work-related injury; in the process, he encounters a single mother who must similarly navigate the country’s bureaucratic procedures. 
What’s It Doing at Cannes? Loach is a regular at the festival, almost always premiering his films in the Official Competition when they’re ready in time. As long as he still makes movies, his appearance at Cannes is one of its most predictable ingredients. 
When Can I See It? Wild Bunch is selling the film, which is a likely crowdpleaser; expect several mid-size U.S. buyers to show interest. -Eric Kohn

“The Last Face”

Who Made It? Sean Penn, returning to the director’s chair of the first time since 2007’s “Into the Wild.”
Why It Might Be Great: By most estimations, “Into the Wild” was Penn’s finest accomplishment as a filmmaker, and while his public reputation remains divisive, few argue with his artistic capabilities. Now, Penn’s global activism seems to be merging with his filmmaking, as “The Last Face” focuses on the director of an international aid organization (Charlize Theron) stationed in Liberia who falls in love with a doctor played by Javier Barden. With a cast that also includes “Blue is the Warmest Color” star Adele Exarchopoulous and Jean Reno, the drama looks like an actor’s showcase irrespective of what Penn does with the story. 
What’s It Doing at Cannes? Penn’s a regular at the festival, having starred in competition films and chaired the jury in recent years; the movie’s cast is also filled with the kind of international star power that tends to stand out in the lineup. 
When Can I See It? The only U.S. film in competition this year without U.S. distribution, the film is expected to land a significant buyer, but it’s hard to evaluate its commercial prospects until it’s revealed at Cannes. -EK


Who Made It? Paul Verhoeven, whose credits include subversive blockbuster classics “Robocop” and “Starship Troopers,” though he has more recently returned to The Netherlands, where his last film was the spy thriller “Black Book.” 
Why It Might Be Great: The filmmaker’s first French-language effort, “Elle” finds Verhoeven teaming with Isabelle Huppert, who plays 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. 
What’s It Doing at Cannes? Verhoeven hasn’t presented a film in competition was 1992’s “Basic Instinct,” another erotic thriller starring a globally recognized talent. It’s no great surprise that the octogenarian filmmaker’s latest transgressive drama has landed the high profile treatment. 
When Can I See It? While already slated for a U.S. release, “Elle” will be jockeying for a big buyer at Cannes able to capitalize on its provocative hook. -EK


Who Made It?
This is Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s latest feature, who also helmed the critically acclaimed “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” which won the Palme d’Or in 2007.

Why It Might Be Great: The family drama focuses on the compromises and implications of parenting in a small Romanian town, starring Adrian Titieni, Lia Bugnar, Vlad Ivanov and Maria Drăguş. According to Mungiu, the film was inspired by where he was is in life, which is why he chose to focus on parenting.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? After the success of his previous films, it’s only natural for “Graduation” to compete for the Palme d’Or.

When Can I See It? Sundance Selects snapped this one up last month. Sundance Selects also picked up Mungiu’s last film “Beyond the Hills.”  -Kristen Santer

“The Handmaiden”

Who Made It? Park Chan-Wook, whose 2009 vampire film “Thirst” won Cannes’ Jury Prize in 2009 in a tie with Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank.”

Why It Might Be Great: The competition film marks Chan-Wook’s first Korean-language movie since “Thirst,” and is based on the British novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters. The story follows a female con artist who works as a servant to a Japanese heiress before seducing her and ultimately revealing even more disturbing intentions. Amazon bought the film from CJ Entertainment, which pre-sold the movie in 116 territories. 

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Chan-Wook has had multiple films in the festival over the years, including the mystery-thriller “Old Boy” that won Cannes’ Grand Prix in 2004.

When Can I See It? The film is being released in Korea in June and is expected to hit the U.S. later this year. -Graham Winfrey


Who Made It? Another Romanian filmmaker, Cristi Puiu who previously directed and wrote “Aurora,” which appeared in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2010.

Why It Might Be Great: “Sieranevada” centers around a family reunion on the anniversary of a patriarch’s recent death, which sounds like the perfect fodder for the kind of big, bruising drama that Cannes delivers with ease.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Puiu is a rising up-and-comer with a lot of potential, especially after the very well-received “Aurora.” Placing “Sierranevada” in competition for the the Palme d’Or sends a strong message about not only its potential, but Puiu’s.

When Can I See It? The distribution rights have not been claimed yet. -KS


Who Made It? Indie
favorite Jeff Nichols, who has already opened one film this year, thanks to his
sci-fi outing “Midnight Special.” Nichols, who has long trafficked in
drama-driven character studies held tight by razor-sharp tension, appears to be
steadily expanding his oeuvre, and his new historical drama sounds like a huge
step forward for him.

Why It Might Be Great: In
short, because Nichols is great. The filmmaker hasn’t made a bad film yet, and
he appears to be stretching himself further with every feature. After making
similarly toned offerings with “Shotgun Stories,” “Mud” and
“Take Shelter,” Nichols has spread his genre wings, moving into
sci-fi earlier this year, and now tackling the hugely important story of the
landmark Loving v. Virginia case. Aided by a crackerjack cast, including Joel
Edgerton, Ruth Negga and his constant collaborator Michael Shannon, it sounds
kind of like a slam dunk.

What’s It Doing at Cannes? Nichols has been at Cannes twice before, including with
his Critics’ Week Grand Prix-winning “Take Shelter” and his
“Mud,” which competed for the Palme d’Or in 2012. “Loving” is
arguably his most awards-friendly offering yet (although Nichols excels at
getting wonderful performances from his players, he’s yet to really hit the big
time just yet) and should prove to be a big ticket item for plenty of hungry

When Can I See It? Focus Features will release “Loving” on November 4, in prime awards season territory. -KE

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.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox