Cannes Film Festival boasts more Canadian films than it has in a decade | CBC News

Cannes Film Festival boasts more Canadian films than it has in a decade | CBC News

The Cannes Film Festival opened Tuesday with the unveiling of Greta Gerwig’s jury selection and the presentation of an honorary Palme d’Or — the festival’s most prestigious prize — for Meryl Streep as the French Riviera spectacular kicked off its 77th edition.

But along with buzzy films from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, to Kevin Costner’s American Horizon and Yargos Lanthimos’s Kinds of Kindness, Cannes is looking particularly Canadian this year. In the largest showing since 2012 — which saw three features and a short film from the country in the official selection — this year’s festival is largely bolstered by productions and artists from the Great White North.

After his 2022 Crimes of the Future inspired Cannes walkouts and a seven-minute standing ovation (somewhat obligatory at the festival), body horror specialist David Cronenberg is headed back to the French film showcase. This time he is debuting The Shrouds, a Guy Pearce, Vincent Cassell, Diane Kruger and Sandrine Holt-led horror about a recently bereaved husband who invents a way to observe, and commune with, the dead.

The film saw its first teaser trailer release earlier this week. In an interview with Variety, Cronenberg said the narrative of the film parallels his own life.

“I was writing this film while experiencing the grief of the loss of my wife, who died seven years ago,” he said. “It was an exploration for me because it was not just a technical exercise, it was an emotional exercise.”

WATCH | The Shrouds teaser trailer: 

With Cannes becoming more and more an Oscars bellwether — as Palme d’Or winners Parasite, Triangle of Sadness, and Anatomy of a Fall went on to see wins at the Academy Awards —  Cronenberg’s buzzy latest release at the festival could finally spell Academy success for the Toronto director.

Though Cronenberg is highly awarded — even winning the Cannes jury prize back in 1996 with Crash — he has never been nominated at the arguably horror-averse Academy Awards, which has only considered six such movies for best picture

And while not made by a Canadian director, Donald Trump biopic The Apprentice still represents a shot at Cannes’ highest prize for the country. Following the former U.S. president’s early years as a New York real estate mogul, the Ali Abbasi-directed film stars Sebastian Stan as Trump and is a Canadian majority co-production with Ireland and Denmark. 

The film boasts a considerable supporting cast of Canadian talent, from St. Catharine’s Joe Pingue as mobster Tony Salerno to Toronto’s Mark Rendall as Trump ally Roger Stone and young Emily Mitchell of Woman Talking fame playing Ivanka Trump. 

If it were to win the Palme d’Or, it would be the first Canadian film to do so.

Jeremy Strong, left, and Sebastian Stan appear in a promotional image from The Apprentice. The Canadian co-production follows the early years of former U.S. president Donald Trump. (Scythia Films)

Another tangential piece of Canadiana is Paul Schrader’s Oh, Canada. Despite the name, the film is not actually all that related to the country behind the lens.

On paper though, there are many connections: adapted from Russell Banks’ novel Foregone, Oh, Canada follows a draft-dodging documentary filmmaker (Euphoria‘s Jacob Elordi in his younger years, Richard Gere as an older man) as he flees to Canada during the Vietnam war. 

A poster for the film was released on Wednesday. 

And heading up a strong Winnipeg contingent at the festival, the Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson-helmed Rumours is appearing out-of-competition at the festival, meaning it has been selected for a gala screening but won’t compete for the main prize. 

Starring Cate Blanchett and Alicia Vikander, it marks Maddin’s first feature film to appear at the festival in his four-decade career. In a Winnipeg Free Press article, producer Liz Jarvis revealed Rumours is Maddin’s most expensive feature, though both declined to share an exact figure. 

The dark comedy follows seven G7 leaders as they attempt to draft a statement addressing a world crisis.

On the set of Universal Language.
A promotional shot from on the set of Matthew Rankin’s Universal Language. The film will debut in Canne’s Directors’ Fortnight section. (Maryse Boyce)

That accolade pairs well with fellow Winnipeg filmmaker Matthew Rankin’s journey to the festival. Though —  like Maddin — Rankin has had a short film appear at Cannes, his Universal Language will receive an out-of-competition premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight section, a segment meant to highlight inventive and unique productions that challenge typical forms. 

His dramedy Universal Language follows a tour guide leading confused visitors around a Winnipeg that CBC’s Radheyan Simonpillai described as “a Winnipeg that has lapsed into some liminal space and merged with Montreal and Tehran. It’s a Winnipeg where everyone speaks Farsi (and a bit of French) and the Tim Horton’s serves Persian Tea, and kids dream of being diplomats or raising donkeys.”

Those films are supported by short film entries, including Perfectly a Strangeness by Alison McAlpine, Telos I by Emil Damn Seidel and Dorotea Saykaly, and The Roaming by Mathieu Pradat. 

Controversy at Cannes

The Canadian success comes amid somewhat dramatic off-screen events at the festival. 

Among the biggest releases at Cannes this year is Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis. The film has been over 40 years in the making, and only exists now because the director sold part of his winery to finance it himself. 

Its first teaser trailer was released on Tuesday, and the highly anticipated film will screen on May 17 — though reports of Coppola feuding with and firing his crew, and accusations he allegedly tried to kiss extras on the film’s set tarnished some of its shine. An executive producer later denied “any complaints of harassment or ill behaviour.” 

Other concerns are also swirling around this year’s Cannes. Festival workers, fed up with short-term contracts that leave them unqualified for unemployment benefits in between festivals, have threatened to strike. During Tuesday’s opening ceremony, two small bands of festival workers protested, including one group that unfurled a banner from the roof of the Palais.

On Monday, the Iranian filmmaker Mohammed Rasoulof, whose film The Seed of the Sacred Fig is premiering next week in competition in Cannes, said he had fled Iran after being sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging. The film is said to be a critical depiction of the Iranian government.

The 2024 Cannes Film Festival began on Tuesday, and will run until May 25.

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