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Cannes 2017: 22 Films We Can’t Wait to See at This Year’s Festival

From returning auteurs, fresh discoveries and some serious safe bets, here are 22 films we're most excited to see at this year's festival.

“I Am Not a Witch”

Welsh-Zambian filmmaker Runago Nyoni has been generating momentum on the festival circuit with short films like “Listen” and “The List,” but she’s poised to gain a whole lot more attention when she premieres her feature-length debut in Directors Fortnight this year. The movie revolves around the experiences of a nine-year-old girl who is exiled from her African village after being accused of being a witch and winds up trapped there. Early reports suggest that it’s a taut, visually expressive thriller that owes much of its power to young newcomer Maggie Mulubwa in the lead role. As one of the few African films at the festival this year, it stands a good chance at gaining additional exposure that will only help propel its main talent to the international stage. -EK

“A Ciambra”

“A Ciambra”

Jonas Carpignano’s feature debut “Mediterranea” was a breakout at Critics Week in 2015, in part because it had a topical hook — the plight of African migrant workers making their way across a perilous ocean to Italy, where they struggle to find their footing. The director’s measured, naturalistic approach turned its ripped-from-the-headlines hook into a profoundly human story thick with details about a daily struggle to survive in an unforgiving metropolis. “A Ciambra” continues to explore that world, following one of the young characters from “Mediterranean” as he grows a little older and faces more challenges in the quest to support his family. Carpignano has already proven that he’s capable of channeling the grand traditions of neorealism through a contemporary lens, and this Directors Fortnight premiere is poised to continue that trend. -EK

“They”

Iranian-born Anahita Ghazvinizadeh studied with Abbas Kiarostami at Tehran University, and won the Cinéfondation prize at Cannes for Best Student Film at just 24 years old. Four years later, the young filmmaker is back at Cannes with her feature debut, “They.” A timely subject, the film is about a genderqueer adolescent named J who takes hormone blockers to delay puberty and uses the preferred pronoun “they.” When their parents head out of town and J is left with their older sister and her boyfriend, gender dynamics come up against family dynamics. Shot in the suburbs of Chicago, if “They” looks anything like a Millennial version of a Kiarostami film, that alone is worthy of anticipating. -Jude Dry

Safe Bets

Robert Pattinson in “Good Time”

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“Good Time”

Who would have guessed, back in the halcyon days of “Twilight,” that Robert Pattinson would soon be a ubiquitous presence on the festival circuit? After working with the likes of David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog and James Gray, the former vampire is headed back to the Croisette alongside the Safdie Brothers. “Good Time” marks the cinematic siblings’ first film since the painfully authentic “Heaven Knows What,” a drama of heroin and homelessness. Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh co-star in their latest, which follows a bank robber (Pattinson) on the lam. If patience isn’t among your virtues, fret not: “Good Time” is due in theaters this August courtesy of A24. -MN

“The Florida Project”

Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” emerged as one of the breakout hits of 2015 — two years later, the director is hoping to do the same, this time starting the journey out of Directors Fortnight. Willem Dafoe is ostensibly the film’s lead performer, but he’ll be sharing screen time with some intriguing newcomers. As Baker shared with IndieWire back in September after production wrapped, the two other central cast members are actresses Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, the latter of which Baker found via social media. As a filmmaker whose previous work has unpacked and subverted expectations, Baker seems especially ready to tell a story that revolves around the different ways that adults and children see the world. -SG

"The Florida Project"

“The Florida Project”

Marc Schmidt

“You Were Never Really Here”

It’s been six years since Lynne Ramsay’s last feature film. Her absence has been painful for fans of “Ratcatcher,”  “Morvern Callar” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” all three of which stunned Cannes in their respective years. The Croisette is about the only place Ramsay could make her big return, and she’s set to just that with “You Were Never Really Here.” Joaquin Phoenix stars as a war veteran who attempts to save a young girl from sex traffickers, and the great Jonny Greenwood is handling the original score. All the pieces are in place for a Cannes knockout. One thing is for sure: It’s so good to have Ramsay back in the spotlight. -ZS

“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”

“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”

Even though John Cameron Mitchell hasn’t directed that many movies, there isn’t a dud in the bunch. (Maybe being choosy with ideas is the secret). Best known for writing, directing, and starring in the queer cinema classic, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Mitchell exhibited fine dramatic chops with 2010’s “Rabbit Hole,” as well as comedic ones with 2006’s criminally underrated “Shortbus.” For his fourth feature, Mitchell returns to lighter fare with an adaptation of a short story by Neil Gaiman, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” It’s just the kind of zany premise and convergence of great talents that could be amazing or strange — hopefully both. Set in a London suburb in the 1970’s, the film follows an alien girl named Zan (Elle Fanning) who falls in love with a punk teenage boy named Enn (Alex Sharp). Nicole Kidman, also starring in Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” with Fanning, plays a very different character from the looks of her name: Queen Boadicea. (Hopefully the multiple Kidman/Fanning pairings will be a boon to both projects, and not just confusing.) Backed by great source material, and the chance to merge his “Hedwig” punk roots with enticing A-list talents, Mitchell just might have another smash hit on his hands. -JD

Colin Farrell in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER by Yorgos Lanthimos

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Expectations are sky high for Greek auteur Yorgis Lanthimos’ follow-up to arthouse hit “The Lobster,” which landed Colin Farrell a Best Actor Musical or Comedy nod from the Golden Globes. The boundary-pushing psychological supernatural thriller “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is “totally different” from “The Lobster,” said Nicole Kidman, whose plays the wife of Farrell’s surgeon. After he takes a sinister teenage boy under his wing, he makes an “unthinkable sacrifice” because of his behavior. Alicia Silverstone is the boy’s mother. The film “makes ‘The Lobster’ seem like a kids’ movie,” Farrell said. He has one word for it: “bleak.” Lanthimos, who co-wrote the film alongside his usual collaborator Efthymis Filippou, is “somebody who is interested in the push-pull of what it is to be a human being,” said Farrell, “in the loneliness, in how we learn through example and through observation, in how we follow or break rules, in whether rules are a service or disservice to us.” -AT

“Redoubtable”

Fans of French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard should have Michel Hazanavicius’ “Redoubtable” at the top of their list of films to see at Cannes. Based on Anne Wiazemsky’s autobiography “Un An Après,” about her romance with Godard during the making of the 1967 film “La Chinoise,” the film stars “The Dreamers” actor Louis Garrel as Godard and “Nymphomaniac” actress Stacy Martin as Wiazemsky. The pair fell in love when Wiazemsky was 17 years old and were a married couple for more than a decade until their divorce in 1979. “Redoubtable” opens in Paris in 1967 and covers the the volatile period of civil unrest in France during May of 1968. -Graham Winfrey

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