May 24 2016
The Cannes Film Festival ended on Sunday night with the usual round of awards and we look at British success and what stories we will have shortly on www.asianculturevulture.com from Cannes 2016…
DIRECTOR Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” was awarded the top prize – the Palme D’or by the Cannes jury headed by “Mad Max” director George Miller.
Loach’s latest film covers familiar territory for anyone who knows his work and politics.
“I, Daniel Blake” is a humanitarian tour de force, powerful and moving within the context of its own framing and was very enthusiastically received in Cannes at its very first showing, which is to the world’s film press.
While former Conservative Party minister Iain Duncan Smith was doing the rounds on the radio yesterday morning, talking about the need for Britain to leave the European Union, he probably had little idea that his shadow looms very large in Loach’s film.
The former department of work and pensions cabinet minister was the chief architect of the government’s much trailed welfare reforms before he quit the government to campaign for Brexit, a bit more than a month ago.
It is Duncan Smith’s early reforms that Blake, a Geordie carpenter based in Newcastle, comes up against.
Built around Blake (Dave Johns), a carpenter, who is recovering from a heart attack, it shows how the widower has to fight for state support, while being deemed fit for work and befriending a single mother-of-two who has been forced away from her own family in London because of the housing shortage in the capital. There is a form of uncomfortable romance which is one-sided and awkward and only compounds Blake’s general frustrations, while Katie (Hayley Squires) is herself on a highly destructive downward spiral.
Smith gets a direct name check at the end and it is none too flattering. (Read the review for more on the film).
The Tories have escaped largely unscathed because some of the more outrageous procedures introduced under Duncan Smith, and superbly highlighted in this film, have been discredited and abandoned.
But Loach reminds us that bureaucracies of all kinds and the people who work in them, can lose sight of humanity quickly and become rather like machines just spewing out gunge because that is what they have been set to do by their (political) masters.
It is somewhat warming to have a British film top the Cannes offerings this year.
But Loach is in many ways a very traditional filmmaker and while his film grammar is easily understandable and accessible to the masses, he offers little in the way of innovation or cinematography that reaches into your soul and leaves a deep impression.
But having said that, his humanity and compassion for the human condition is what appeals and what probably most impressed the jury and the film’s overall execution and acting are superb and indisputable. Sometimes you do feel like you are watching a documentary.
Worth mentioning too among the main prizes is the award for best actress which went to Jacyln Jose in “Ma’ Rosa” by Brilliante Mendoza, from the Philippines. It is the first time an actor from this country has ever won an award in Cannes, so is a fantastic achievement.
Iran also won two of the seven main competition prizes on offer; Shahab Hosseini won the actor award for “The Salesman” and its screenplay also collected an award for its director-writer, Asghar Farhardi, something of a fave at Cannes, having appeared many times.
The focus of our Cannes is largely on the South Asian content.
As usual there is a lot of brouhaha about the Indian films that reach Cannes, but only one was in the official contemporary selection this year; “The Cinema Travellers“, a documentary about the dying practice of travelling cinemas in India appeared in Cannes Classic, which celebrates old films and new work which examines cinema history or aspects of it.
The rest of the Indian films all come to the market (Marché du Film) at Cannes, which is precisely what it suggests – a market place for buyers and sellers of films.
These are not to be confused with official selections – which are supported by the festival. The distinction is important to the filmmakers who get into the official selections – it is a statement of approval and prestige.
Anurag Kashyap was back with “Raman Raghav2”, a film loosely based on a real 1960s Bombay serial killer.
A stalwart at Cannes, this was his 10th film in one form or another – he has produced several, as well as directed.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as ‘Raman’ the serial killer is great, as is Vicky Kaushal – as Raghav, the rather untamed cop – and on a rising trajectory as an actor in India.
The female lead, while occupying less screen time than both men, is also very good and worth keeping an eye on – Sobhita Dhulipala, as the cop Raghav’s ‘girlfriend’ is a potent mix of beauty and feistiness and Kashyap superbly highlights her qualities as a noir siren.
Kashyap took time out from his busy schedule in Cannes to talk about his ‘political’ film to us on camera – as ever there is a deep intelligence to his work that does not always translate well, especially in India. Siddiqui, who has also been to Cannes several times, discusses his role with us too.
In the wider South Asian context too, it was a delight to see an Afghan director – Shahrbanoo Sadat present her first feature, “Wolf and Sheep” in the Director’s Fortnight section.
Sadat won a Cinema Art Award for this, her first feature – we will publish our review as soon as our video interview with Sadat is broadcast.
It’s important that we see another side to a country that is usually in the news only for bad reasons.
Sadat restores a certain dignity and poise to her country’s much tarnished image and her film, mostly starring young actors or children, amply accentuates a shared humanity and the sort of childhood we all have had at some basic level.
Also presenting a very different image of a country to the world than ever seen before – is K Rajagopal’s “A Yellow Bird”.
Showing again in another prestigious section at Cannes, this time the Critic’s Week, the film centres around ‘Siva’, an Indian Singaporean who has served time, and is looking to put his life back together again.
It’s raw and difficult viewing at times – especially the scenes of casual racism between ethnic groups, such as the way some Chinese Singaporeans look at the Indian community, and some of their own but from China and not Singaporean-born.
There are strong performances and it shows a side to Singapore that is both real and unpleasant.
We have video interviews with the director and the main cast – including Seema Biswas (remember her from “Bandit Queen“?”), where we explore these topics in more depth.
We will also publish reviews when these acv videos are out – hopefully this week.
And of course being in Cannes and searching out the South Asian content leaves us predictably enough to L’Oreal’s star ambassadors.
Both Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who also did some publicity for her latest release, “Sarbjit” was in town, as was Sonam Kapoor.
See our interviews with the stars below.
We were also fortunate enough to snatch a few minutes with Hollywood actor and producer Eva Longoria to talk about women in the film industry.
Presenter Attika Choudhary also secured an interview with Susan Sarandon to talk to her and fellow star and activist Geena Davis, after their special Women in Motion panel discussion.
Both are campaigning to increase gender representation in the film industry. In the panel session chaired by trade magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, both talked about how they met on the set of “Thelma and Louise” and how it had changed their lives.
Much of the media attention focused on Sarandon slamming Woody Allen and drawing attention to allegations of sexual abuse surrounding the veteran director, but in between that, Sarandon also spoke revealingly about ‘feminist men’ and ‘misogynistic women’.
The acv video also team managed to get on the red carpet for the annual amfAR event – which raised $30m in the fight against AIDS this year. A glamourous event, packed with stars, it a curious mix of celebrity and commitment to a worthwhile cause.
There will also be video interviews from Cannes with the talent behind “Mantostaan”, a feature based on four short stories by the great Indian/Pakistani Partition writer, Saadat Hasan Manto.
Interestingly, last year we interviewed Nandita Das in Cannes and she told us about her project which is more of a biopic on the writer and it was reported in one of the film trade magazines in Cannes that Siddiqui is to play the main part.
There should also be video interviews with the Indian minister of information and broadcasting Rajyavardan Singh Rathore, and actor-director Fagun Thakrar, who talks about her latest film alongside Donald Sutherland (a member of the Cannes jury this year) and 2016 Academy Award winner, Brie Larson.
That is all to come both here and on our Youtube channel, do subscribe if you don’t want to miss all that.
Finally, and elsewhere in a British context, director Andrea Arnold, one of only three other women to have films in the main competition section, won the Jury Prize for “American Honey”.
It is quite the trio for Arnold, who won the same accolade for both “Fish Tank” in 2009, featuring Michael Fassbinder and “Red Road” in 2006.
We caught the first hour or so of “American Honey” (having to leave because of other commitments), it looked interesting…
At over two and half hours, and on those early impressions, it would seem baggy and rangy and too sprawling. Some critics have said that. Some also have reacted sharply to its content too.
It follows a group of US misfits who come together as a team and work on door to door sales of a magazine subscription. They travel across America in a trailer van doing this. At the heart of Arnold’s film is ‘Star’ played by Sasha Lane – who has a real star quality about her.
She holds the screen well and her mixture of vulnerability and ballsiness makes you want to watch her – she also has an unconventional beauty on her side.
Others have remarked on the chemistry between Star and Jake (Shia LaBeouf) in the film, and it’s powerful in that first 60 minutes that we saw. Jake is, by turns, both charming and vile. His unpredictability and propensity to potential violence also engages you.
Arnold’s direction – the film is in a 4:3 format – and loose framing (it has the feel of a handheld amateur camera at times) gives the film edge and intimacy, but its subject matter, of those on the margins and America’s own white youth underclass (‘trash’ some silly folks might say) may be too uncomfortable for some.
That very broadly is our Cannes 2016 and gives you an idea of what is to come…
Finally, a word of thanks to our sponsors, East Shopping Centre who supported part of our coverage of this year’s Cannes Film Festival 2016.
Reviews to come from Cannes 2016: I, Daniel Blake; Hell or High Water; Captain Fantastic; The Nice Guys; Julieta; Clash; Raman Raghav 2; A Yellow Bird; Sheep and Wolf.