The 2024 Cannes Film Festival has begun. Here’s what to expect

The 2024 Cannes Film Festival has begun. Here’s what to expect
  • PublishedMay 15, 2024

International stars, auteur directors and the adorable border collie from Anatomy of a Fall are taking on La Croissette, as the 77th Festival de Cannes kicks off.

Held from May 14 to 25, the 2024 edition of the prestigious film festival in the south of France features Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited epic Megalopolis; a drama where Sebastian Stan plays a young Donald Trump; plus new films by Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things), Andrea Arnold (American Honey) and Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves).

Plus, there are quite a few Australian offerings this year, including George Miller’s long-awaited fifth Mad Max film.

Here’s your run-down on Cannes 2024.

What are the big films this year?

There are 22 films competing for the Palme d’Or — arguably film’s most coveted award. More than 50 other films are also premiering outside of the main competition.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing is Megalopolis, Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in more than a decade. This sci-fi epic has been more than five decades in the making, and has a stacked cast that includes Adam Driver, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf and Dustin Hoffman.

Film still of a man and woman on top of a skyscraper, a city behind them in golden light. Driver peers through a strange device.
Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel are just some of the big names in Megalopolis.(Supplied: American Zoetrope/Megalopolis/Mihai Malaimare)

However, the film has not yet picked up a US distributor, and a preview screening had a muted response, with insiders telling The Hollywood Reporter it is a hard commercial sell.

Other film premieres to keep an eye on are:

  • The Apprentice, where Sebastian Stan and Borat 2’s Maria Bakalova star as a young Donald and Ivana Trump
  • Kinds of Kindness, which sees director Yorgos Lanthimos reuniting with Poor Things actors Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe
  • Musical crime comedy Emilia Pérez starring Selena Gomez
  • Paul Schrader’s Oh, Canada, starring Australian Jacob Elordi
  • And new films by David Cronenberg, Andrea Arnold and Jia Zhangke.

And some notable premieres that are screening out of the Palme d’Or competition include opening night film The Second Act, a comedy starring Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel, and Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga, starring the Costner, Sienna Miller and Australian Sam Worthington.

A man and a woman face one another, looking tense and standing close, in a dimly lit motel carpark at night.
Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn star in Kinds of Kindness, which is made up of three distinct but loosely connected stories.(Supplied: The Walt Disney Company)

What is the Australian representation like at Cannes this year?

Two major Australian films are screening out of competition.

George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga will have its world premiere at the festival tomorrow. A prequel to 2015’s Fury Road, it stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) as the titular character previously played by Charlize Theron.

Shot in New South Wales, it also stars Chris Hemsworth, Charlee Fraser (Anyone but You), Angus Sampson and Quaden Bayles, a 13-year-old Murri boy who made his debut in Miller’s 2022 film Three Thousand Years of Longing. Cannes audiences see the film slightly before we do, with the movie scheduled for an Australian cinematic release on Thursday May 23.

Also screening out of competition is The Surfer, an Irish Australian co-production directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Vivarium), starring Nicolas Cage opposite an ensemble of Australian actors, including Julian McMahon and Miranda Tapsell. It was filmed entirely in Yallingup, a Western Australian town with a population of less than 2,000. Cage also appeared to venture around to some other WA towns, too.

A man, bruised, bloody and dirty, sits in a car. He looks exhaulted, staring at a bullet in his left hand.
Nicolas Cage’s new film is a little more serious than the usual surf movie.(Supplied: Stan/Radek Ladczuk)

Billed as a psychological thriller, Cage plays a man returning to Australia after many years living in the US, who is looking to buy back his family home. After being humiliated in front of his teenage son by a group of local surfers, he refuses to leave the beach he claims was integral to his childhood, with locals questioning his identity and sanity.

The Surfer marks the Australian streamer Stan’s second premiere at the festival, following Nitram, Justin Kurzel’s award-winning 2021 film about the Port Arthur massacre.

A handful of other Australian films will also play the festival via various program strands.

Withered Blossoms, a short film by AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) student Lionel Seah, will also have its world premiere as part of Cannes’s La Cinef, a competition for student-directed shorts. It’s one of 18 shorts selected from a pool of 2,263 films submitted by film schools from across the globe, competing for a €15,000 ($24,482) first prize.

A boardwalk through a lush garden with foilage providing an arch overhead. In the distance, two women, one with a cane.
Seah has described his film Withered Blossoms as a meditation on the conversations he wishes he could have had with his grandmother.(Supplied: AFTRS)

An international student from Singapore, Seah shot the film in his home country, while he was studying his Masters of Arts Screen at the Sydney school. It is about a young woman who visits her grandmother after breaking up with her long-term partner.

Sweet As, a coming-of-age drama by Nyul Nyul and Yawuru director-writer Jub Clerc will play Cannes Écrans Juniors, a section of films screening for young adults.

Released last year in Australia and available to stream on Binge, it is based off Clerc’s own experiences at a youth retreat for “at-risk” teens run by National Geographic in the 80s as a “photo safari”.

This is also the second year Australia’s Queer Screen, the organisers of Mardi Gras Film Festival, will present films at the festival’s market, the Marché du Film. Queer Screen is one of seven global festivals – and the only LGBTIQA+ one – invited to curate a “Goes to Cannes” selection, presenting five films to potential buyers, distributors and programmers.

These include Australian features From All Sides, directed and written by Bina Bhattacharya, about a bisexual Indian Australian couple in south-west Sydney; Heart of the Man, a semi-autobiographical film written, directed and starring Butchulla man David Cook; and Strange Creatures, a Victorian road movie in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine, directed and written by Henry Boffin.

Three figures - a woman in a red sari and two teens - dance in front of a tool area in someone's home.
In From All Sides, a mother’s former life as a professional dancer resurfaces, catapulting her family into parallel journeys of cultural and sexual awakening.(Supplied: Queer Screen)

Can we expect any controversies?

Extra eyes will be on competition film The Seed of the Sacred Fig this year, after Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof was sentenced last week to eight years in prison over the film’s content, which centres on the Islamic Revolutionary Court. In a statement to Variety, the director says he has fled Iran, and that several cast and crew members have been threatened by the state. It’s unclear if he or others involved will attend Cannes.

Three women stand in a home, looking forward.
The Seed of the Sacred Fig director Mohammad Rasoulof said in an Instagram post that he was in a “safe place” after people “risked their lives” to help him flee Iran.(Supplied: Cannes Film Festival)

While a short isn’t usually among the most-hyped films, the last-minute inclusion of Moi Aussi by actor Judith Godrèche is noteworthy. The actor has been a leading figure in France’s #MeToo movement, recently accusing directors Jacques Doillon and Benoît Jacquot of having raped her when she was a teenager, in the 80s. 

The film incorporates testimony from many women who have experienced sexual assault. There are rumours, reported by The Guardian, an “explosive” list accusing 10 industry men, including actors and directors, of abusing women may be released during the festival.

Cannes also faces potential strike action from a collective known as the Precarious Film Festival Workers, who are demanding better working conditions.

The group protested the opening night gala, sneaking onto the gala venue’s rooftop to unfurl a banner that read “Sous les écrans la dèche” (“Under the screen, the waste”). More demonstrations are planned, though it’s unclear whether the collective – which includes projectionists, box office staff, drivers and more — will go forward with a strike.

More than 300 industry figures have signed a petition supporting the strike, including actor Louis Garrel and two-time Palme d’Or winner Jean-Pierre Dardenne. When asked about the potential strikes at a press conference, jury president Greta Gerwig said: “I support labour movements”, adding, “It’s very important that people have protections and a living wage.”

Who is on the jury this year – and what awards do they give?

Greta Gerwig is the second woman director to take the revered spot of jury president, following Jane Campion in 2014. In a statement, festival president Iris Knobloch and artistic director Thierry Frémaux celebrated the Barbie director as “an obvious choice”.

A woman in a brown vneck dress stands in front of a sea of people, with cameras of all size - phone, TV - around.
Greta Gerwig arrives at Cannes Film Festival’s jury dinner, the night before the opening ceremony.(Getty Images: Mustafa Yalcin)

“Gerwig manages to combine what was previously judged to be incompatible: delivering art house blockbusters, narrowing the gap between art and industry, exploring contemporary feminist issues with deft as well as depth, and declaring her demanding artistic ambition from within an economic model that she embraces in order to put to better use.”

An international panel will join Gerwig to determine the award winners, including the coveted Palme d’Or (Golden Palm), second prize Grand Prix and the Prix du Jury for innovation and originality, and acting, screenwriting and directing awards. This year’s panel includes:

  • Killers of the Flower Moon actor Lily Gladstone
  • French actors Omar Sy (Lupin; The Intouchables) and Eva Green (The Dreamers)
  • Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino (The Traitor)
  • Lebanese Canadian director-activist Nadine Labaki (Capernaum)
  • Turkish actor and screenwriter Ebru Ceylan (The Wild Pear Tree)
  • Spanish director J.A. Bayona (Society of the Snow)
  • Japanese director and 2018 Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters)

Many other juries oversee separate awards, the most noteworthy being Un Certain Regard, a €30,000 prize ($48,941) given to a young filmmaker, which will be led by Quebecois director and multiple Cannes award winner Xavier Dolan.

Other notable awards include the Queer Palm, given to the finest film with LGBTIQ+ themes, and the L’Œil d’or, given to the best documentary.

What honorary awards are being given out?

Three honorary Palme d’Ors will be handed out throughout the festival to Meryl Streep, Star Wars creator George Lucas and, for the first time, a group: Japan’s Studio Ghibli, the animation studio behind Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and, most recently Oscar-winning The Boy and The Heron.

In addition to her film Bird premiering in competition, Britain’s Andrea Arnold will also receive the Carosse d’Or, an award recognising directors with long, influential careers.

Australian actor Sophie Wilde, who gained international attention last year as the lead in horror Talk to Me, will be honoured with the Trophée Chopard, as will Challengers star Mike Faist.

Sophie Wilde as Mia holding an embalmed hand
Sophie Wilde won the AACTA Award for best actress in a leading role for her turn as Mia in Talk to Me. She was also nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award.(Supplied: A24)

The annual award, voted by a jury, recognises two exemplary emerging actors. Wilde is the second Australian to receive the award, given out since 2001, following Elizabeth Debicki in 2018.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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