As has become commonplace for the annual event, the Cannes Film Festival’s competition slate continues to be dominated by male directors. Announced yesterday, the 2018 competition lineup includes the highest number of films from female filmmakers since 2011 (17.6%, three out of 17 currently announced films), and the festival will play home to new works from Nadine Labaki, Eva Husson, and Alice Rohrwacher. At the festival’s announcement press conference, artistic director Thierry Frémaux hinted that another work from a woman could be added to the lineup in the coming days (the festival will likely announce at least a few more selections; at the very least, Cannes has yet to reveal its closing night film).
In years past, Frémaux has blamed the lack of female directors on the Cannes slate on the discrepancy between how many male and female directors are working today, and yet Cannes has often programmed and championed a number of the film world’s best female filmmakers. The lack of many of them from this year’s lineup is jarring — though, to be fair, this year’s lineup is missing many expected male auteurs from its ranks as well, including Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Lars von Trier, Terrence Malick, and Brian De Palma — especially considering how many of them have new projects completed.
With that in mind, here are a dozen projects from female filmmakers that could have been at the festival (and still might be).
“High Life,” directed by Claire Denis
As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn noted on the day of the Cannes announcement, there are at least two female-directed features whose absence from the competition lineup stands out. First up is Denis’ long-gestating space-set feature “High Life,” which sees the lauded director opting for an English-language outing, which stars Cannes favorite Robert Pattinson. Denis has debuted four films at the festival before, including “Chocolat,” her lone competition title, and previously served as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury back in 2010. That “High Life” is nowhere to be seen on the festival’s current slate is a major surprise, though it’s possible it could land a spot in Directors’ Fortnight, which played home to her “Let the Sunshine In” just last year. It’s also possible that the film, reportedly VFX-heavy, isn’t ready for a May premiere.
“Vision,” directed by Naomi Kawase
The other big surprise: no slot for Kawase. Cannes has always been very good to the Japanese filmmaker in the past, playing home to seven of her films (six in the aughts alone). It also tapped her to serve as the president of both the festival’s forward-looking Cinefondation section and its Short Film Jury in 2016, following a stint on the Feature Film Jury in 2013. Kawase is also the youngest winner of the Camera d’or for her feature “Suzaku” back in 1997, which she followed up with a Grand Prix award 10 years later for “The Mourning Forest.” In short, if Kawase has a film, Cannes will program it, and happily so — until now. That seems to have finally been laid to rest at this year’s festival, and too bad, as “Vision” sounds like the rare Kawase feature that might have broader appeal. It stars another Cannes regular (Juliette Binoche) as a journalist on the hunt for a mysterious rare herb that grows every 997 years.
“Maya,” directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
The filmmaker has only screened one film at Cannes, but it was a winner: her 2009 “Father of my Children” tied for a Special Jury Prize with Bahman Ghobadi’s “No One Knows About Persian Cats.” Not too shabby for a second feature. Since then, Hansen-Løve has only increased her reach in the festival world, picking up a Silver Bear for her “Things to Come” back in 2016, and building out a personal slate of films that show her growing maturity and talent behind the camera. Her next one, “Maya,” is proof of that. Hansen-Løve also penned the film’s script, which tells the story of a French war reporter who returns to his home in western India after being held hostage in Syria. Roman Kolinka, who has worked with Hansen-Løve on “Eden” and “Things To Come,” stars in the film, which is currently in post-production, opposite Juliette Binoche, Aarshi Banerjee, and Cédric Kahn.
“That’s Love,” directed by Claire Burger
After screening her short “Forbach” in the Cinefondation section of the 2008 festival, Burger returned with her feature debut “Party Girl” in 2014, when it opened the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes and won the Camera d’Or for best first feature. Since then, she’s been at work on her newest feature, the story of a single man raising his two combustible daughters after his wife leaves him, an actor-driven premise that seemed like a strong fit for a festival that loves to give its fellow countrymen a boost. It’s another title that could pop up at Directors’ Fortnight.
“The Fever,” directed by Maya Da-Rin
Brazilian director Da-Rin has been quietly gathering momentum on the festival circuit, starting with her acclaimed documentary “Lands,” which won at the Panorama Coisa De Cinema back in 2010. Her narrative debut should continue that momentum, albeit on a much larger stage. Set in the industry city of Manaus, the film follows a middle-aged security guard contemplating the imminent loneliness he’ll experience once his daughter leaves for medical school. But there’s a twist: Manuas is surrounded by a rainforest, and when he starts dreaming of a monster in the neighboring Amazon, the real and the fantastical elements of his life begin to blend together.
“Paul Sanchez is Back!,” directed by Patricia Mazuy
A mainstay in French cinema, Mazuy has debuted two films at Cannes, both in Un Certain Regard, including 1989’s “Peaux de Vaches” and 2000’s “Saint Cyr.” Her latest, a comedy-thriller about a criminal who reappears after vanishing for 15 years, could land a similar out of competition slot.
“The Nightingale,” directed by Jennifer Kent
Courtesy of IFC Films
Kent’s much-anticipated followup to her horror breakout “The Babadook” first started shooting in March of last year, and has been targeting a 2018 release date for months. Set in Tasmania in 1825, the film follows a young Irish female convict (Aisling Franciosi) who witnesses the brutal murder of her husband and baby by her soldier master (Sam Claflin) and his lackeys. Unable to find justice in a seemingly untamed land, she takes an Aboriginal male tracker (Baykali Ganambarr) with her through the hellish wilderness to seek revenge on the men. The film promises to be brutal and bruising, a Gothic thriller that Kent will be able to make entirely her own. Cannes has hinted that it might add a handful of midnight titles to its slate in the coming days, and “The Nightingale” would be a unique fit.
“Mary Queen of Scots,” directed by Josie Rourke
The feature directorial debut of Josie Rourke, artistic director of The Donmar Warehouse, this starry royal drama follows last year’s Oscar contenders Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in a face-off as two of history’s most compelling queens. The period drama explores the turbulent life of Ronan’s Mary Stuart, who became Queen of France at age 16 and widowed at 18. Robbie plays Mary’s biggest rival, Elizabeth I. Each young Queen is fearful and fascinated by the other, but their loyalty to their countries is threatened when Mary asserts her claim to the English throne. Focus Features is planning on releasing the completed film this November.
“The Fugue,” directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska
The Polish director of the dazzling mermaid musical “The Lure” has completed her followup, which promises to deliver another dark fairy tale about unexpected consequences. Sales company Alpha Violet describes the film in thrilling terms: “Alicja, a woman out of nowhere, living life to the fullest in an absolute freedom, as she knows nothing about her past even her name. One day she is found by her relatives by chance and faces her ‘family’ without any desire. Her past as a mother of a small boy and a beloved wife is completely new to her and suddenly it gets an unbearable weight. How can she deal with her new/past life, is it better to deny it? What is the fundament of human self – how much our environment, surrounding, past and memory can determine it?”
“Birds of Passage,” co-directed by Cristina Gallego
The creative team behind 2015’s Oscar-nominated “Embrace of the Serpent” are back, this time to tackle the origins of the Colombian drug trade. Ciro Guerra debuted his wholly unique black-and-white adventure drama at Directors’ Fortnight in 2015, where it won the Art Cinema Award, and announced him as a majorly original talent to watch. He’s re-teamed with his “Serpent” producer Cristina Gallego, this time also on deck as co-director, for his latest vision. While not much is known about the film, the creators did provide a short synopsis when IndieWire debuted the trailer earlier this week: “‘Birds of Passage’ charts the origins of the Colombian drug trade, through the epic story of an indigenous Wayuu family that becomes involved in the booming business of selling marijuana to American youth in the 1970s. When greed, passion and honor collide, a fratricidal war breaks out that will put their lives, their culture and their ancestral traditions at stake.”
“Un Amour Impossible,” directed by Catherine Corsini
Another Cannes regular, Corsini has debuted five films at the festival, including her 2012 Un Certain Regard contender “Three Worlds” and her in-competition 2001 feature “La Repetition.” In 2016, she served as the president of the Camera d’Or jury, which awarded its main prize to Houda Benyamina’s “Divines.” The prolific French director has yet another film completed, a time-spanning romance based on Christine Angout’s novel of the same name, “Un Amour Impossible.” Per the film’s French distributor, Le Pacte, the film picks up “at the end of the 1950s, [when] Rachel, a young office clerk living in a provincial town, meets Philippe, a well-educated man from a wealthy family. They share an intense but short-lived romance, from which a daughter is born. Over the next 50 years, their lives will be shaped by the unconditional love between a mother and her daughter, overshadowed by the impossible love of a woman for a man that rejects her, and of a daughter for an absent and abusive father.”
“The Souvenir: Part 1,” directed by Joanna Hogg
The “Archipelago” and “Exhibition” filmmaker teed up a compelling new project last summer, just as star Robert Pattinson was heading to Cannes to premiere his work in the Safdie brothers’ “Good Time.” Imagined as a two-part feature set in the ’80s (the first half filmed last year, the second is in the works right now), the film follows a young film student in the throes of her first big love affair, which is made all the more dramatic by the fact that he’s a “complicated and untrustworthy man,” per the film’s official synopsis. The film also stars festival favorites like Ariane Labed, Tom Burke, and Richard Ayode, and touts no less than Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. It sounds like a strong fit for a more forward-looking program like Directors’ Fortnight, which could get a jump on the 2019 program if it wants to program both parts of the ambitious project.
The Cannes Film Festival runs May 8 – 19.