Cannes Film Festival 2019: No Indian Films In The Mix Yet, But Plenty Of Exciting Directors, Film Companion

“Romanticism and politics,” is how Cannes Film Festival general delegate Thierry Frémaux described this year’s theme. At a press conference earlier today, he announced 90% of the official 2019 lineup under the Competition, Un Certain Regard, Out of Competition, Special Screenings, and Midnight Screenings sections. Along with the rest of the slate, also to be announced is the Cannes competition jury, which will be led by Birdman and The Revenant filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu this year. Here’s what struck us most about the announcements:

No Indian names

Not a single Indian film was selected for Cannes this year, particularly noticeable given that Nandita Das’ Saadat Hasan Manto biopic Manto was picked for the Un Certain Regard section and Rohena Gera’s unconventional love story Sir was screened as part of the Critics Week in 2018. Last year’s Indian presence was also bolstered by Pushpa Ignatius, whose Pournami had its world premiere at the Cannes Short Film Corner, Manoj Bajpayee and Devashish Makhija, who unveiled the first look of their cop drama Bhonsle, Aneek Chaudhuri’s silent anthology White being screened at the Marché du Film, Dhanush, who launched the poster for the Ken Scott-directed The Extraordinary Journey of Fakir in which he starred and Vikas Khanna unveiling the first look of his directorial debut The Last Colour.

No Netflix either

With the festival and the streaming giant failing to reach a compromise for the second year in a row, not on the line-up this year are Martin Scorsese’s mob drama The Irishman, Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat and Noah Baumbach’s Henry V drama The King. You can read more about the history of this dispute here.

But lots of big names

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie drama The Dead Don’t Die will open the festival. In Competition are Pedro Almodovar’s Spanish drama Pain And Glory, Xavier Dolan’s Matthias and Maxime, Ken Loach’s examination of the 2008 financial crash Sorry We Missed You and Bong Joon-ho’s thriller Parasite. With A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick returns to Cannes for the first time since winning the Palme d’Or for The Tree of Life in 2011. Two episodes of Nicolas Winding Refn’s underworld crime drama Too Old to Die Young will also be screened out of competition. The festival will also see the attendance of Elton John, promoting the Out Of Competition Rocketman, the Dexter Fletcher biopic based on his life (Fremaux hinted that there’s a piano backstage should the singer feel like it) and Diego Maradona, in support of British director Asif Kapadia’s feature-length documentary Diego Maradona, playing under the same section.

Not on the list: Quentin Tarantino, whose Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is “fantastic,” according to Fremaux, but not quite ready yet and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, which many expected to appear in competition.

And a push for equality

There are 13 women filmmakers in official selection — Mati Diop (Atlantique), Jessica Hausner (Little Joe), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Justine Triet (Sibyl), Pippa Bianco (Share), Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobé Mévellec (The Swallows of Kabul), Monia Chokri (A Brother’s Life), Mounia Meddour (Papicha), Maryam Touzani (Adam), Annie Silverstein (Bull), Danielle Lessovitz (Port Authority), Waad Al Kateab (For Sama) — four of whom will compete for the Palme d’Or, the highest number since 2011. Compare that to last year, when only three of the 18 films in competition were by female filmmakers. You may remember the iconic image of jury president Cate Blanchett joined by 81 other women from the industry on the steps of the Palais last year. That number represented the women whose films had competed at Cannes since the festival’s inception in 1942. The number of men who competed during that time? 1,866.

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