Cannes 2016: Programming ideas

Tim Brown of Brighton’s CineCity Festival reveals some of the gems he uncovered at Cannes 2016.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown of CineCity Festival

Shahrbanoo Sadat is the first female Afghan director, and the 26 year old’s debut feature Wolf and Sheep walked away with Cannes’ prestigious Directors’ Fortnight top prize, the Art Cinema Award.

Set in Afghanistan (but filmed in Tajikistan), the highly accomplished autobiographical drama and documentary hybrid Wolf and Sheep, captures village life as it follows a group of young children who work as shepherds. With vivid, standout elements of magical realism, it builds into a fascinating portrait of the community’s rituals, traditions and tensions.

Wolf and Sheep

Wolf and Sheep: Winner of the Art Cinema Award, Cannes 2016

Elsewhere in Director’s Fortnight, the director of War Witch (nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar in 2013), Kim Nguyen, has fashioned another utterly distinctive, albeit very different drama. Set in a remote, snow-bound town in northernmost Canada, young lovers Lucy and Roman are damaged souls seemingly heading to tragedy. The indie-style love story is shot with real visual flair and features some astonishing set pieces (the stunning use of location includes footage of the Aurora Borealis) and very unexpected twists and turns, including surreal interactions with a polar bear.

In Studio Ghibli’s first ever international co-production, Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit’s debut feature was almost a decade in the making. With sublime visuals, The Red Turtle is a dialogue-free fable about a castaway on a desert island. It has been variously described by critics as a “quiet masterpiece” and a “wordless wonder”. Dudok de Wit previously made the Oscar-winning animated short Father and Daughter in 2000. The Red Turtle won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

In something of a bumper year in the main competition, highlights for me were the brilliant 162-minute German comedy Toni Erdmann, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, Graduation directed by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson – as well as his vibrant documentary on Iggy and the Stooges, Gimme Danger, which was given a special midnight screening.

Find out more about Brighton’s CineCity Festival.