Cannes 2024 highlights
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Cannes 2024 highlights

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Cannes 2024 highlights
All We Imagine As Light.

From Francis Ford Coppola's new epic to a Taiwanese drama starring a Thai actor and a Pol Pot drama, we pick hot titles from the French film festival that kicks off today.

All We Imagine As Light

Directed by Payal Kapadia

In Mumbai, two women share a living space but are fated to pursue different romantic paths. Nurse Prabha is troubled when she receives an unexpected gift from her estranged husband who lives in Germany, while her younger roommate Anu searches in vain for a spot in a sweaty, congested city to share a moment with her boyfriend. This Indian film is directed by Payal Kapadia, one of the most exciting young filmmakers to emerge from the country. Her acclaimed first film from 2021, A Night Of Knowing Nothing, blends documentary with dreams and diary as it captures a student protest against right-wing nationalism gripping the country. All We Imagine As Light is Kapadia's first narrative film and already a triumph for having been selected in the coveted Cannes competition.

Mongrel, a Taiwanese film starring Thai actor Wanlop Rungkumjad. (Photo © imdb.com)

Mongrel

Directed by Chiang Wei Liang and You Qiao Lin

In this gut-wrenching drama, an illegal Thai migrant worker in rural Taiwan is entrusted with the job of caring for a mentally handicapped man while struggling to stay afloat in the grey zone of the labour market. Wanlop Rungkumjad, a charismatic, talented actor who has appeared in several Thai independent films in the past 10 years, is the sole Thai presence in Cannes 2024 in this Taiwanese film directed by Chiang Wei Liang and You Qiao Lin. Mongrel is a hard-hitting social and moral drama that probes the lives of Thai, Filipino and Myanmar workers in Taiwan. It's showing in the Directors' Fortnight section (one of the sidebar programmes dedicated to edgy, ambitious filmmakers). You can look forward to it being shown in Thailand in one of the film festivals in the coming months.

Grand Tour.

Grand Tour

Directed by Miguel Gomes

With its first poster featuring writing in Vietnamese, Myanmar, Bahasa, Japanese and Thai, Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes cheekily pays tribute to the region where he sets his latest film. Set in 1917, Grand Tour follows a young British woman who sets out for Southeast Asia, embarking on a grand tour of tropical yearning and colonial melancholy. The still images evoke the time of George Orwell and Somerset Maugham. But since this is coming from Gomes, expect a paradise lost rather than claimed. The film was partially shot in Thailand.

Viet And Nam.

Viet And Nam

Directed by Truong Min Quy

This drama confirms Vietnam's rising reputation in the international festival circuit, following Inside The Yellow Cocoon Shell winning the Camera d'Or at Cannes in 2023. Shot on grainy 16mm, Viet And Nam follows two young miners (aptly called Nam and Viet) as they set out to locate the remains of Nam's father in a remote forest -- and thus the history of the nation is merged with modern sensibility and perhaps confusion. Expect the film to gain more publicity in the coming months, and it seems likely that audiences in Thailand will have a chance to see it soon.

Megalopolis

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

This is definitely going to be the hottest ticket in Cannes this year. Francis Ford Coppola sold his Californian wine estate to finance Megalopolis, ensuring complete control of the project long gestated, rumoured, shot and now finally ready for either adulation or axes in Cannes. Adam Driver plays a visionary architect who strives to rebuild New York after a mega-disaster, that much is known about the story. Coppola cites H.G. Wells as one of his inspirations, and in the film's one-minute teaser we see Driver commanding time to stop as he's perched atop a Manhattan skyscraper. This is Coppola's first return to the Cannes Competition 45 years after Apocalypse Now won the Palme d'Or.

Caught By The Tides

Directed by Jia Zhang-ke

Jia Zhang-ke returns to the Cannes Competition with Caught By The Tides, a story of a couple spanning 20 years. A steadfast chronicler of modern China, in which individual aspirations often clash with the collective desire for progress, Jia assembles this film from new materials and footage that go back to 2001, mixing 16mm images with digital and AI image creators (now that's the word we're waiting to hear). The film stars his wife and frequent contributor Zhao Tao.

She's Got No Name.

She's Got No Name

Directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan

Zhang Zhiyi stars in this historical movie from China-based Hong Kong director Peter Chan (a frequent visitor to Thailand and a good friend to the Thai filmmaking community). She's Got No Name, showing out of competition, arrives in Cannes with the distinction of being the biggest Chinese production of the year, narrating a story of women's social rights through the struggle of a character whose suffering triggers a social movement. Chan is known for making solid, heartfelt entertainment with strong subtexts. It's reported that the shooting of this film required blocks of streets in Shanghai to be closed for months. We can also look forward to seeing Zhang Zhiyi on the red carpet after so many years, too.

Rendez-Vous Avec Pol Pot

Directed by Rithy Panh

From the Paris-based Cambodian director, Rendez-Vous Avec Pol Pot continues Rithy Panh's lifelong storytelling of the horror of the Khmer Rouge years. Here's a synopsis of the film: "Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia, 1978). Three French journalists are invited by the Khmer Rouge to conduct an exclusive interview of the regime's leader, Pol Pot. But the regime is declining and war threatens the country. Under the eyes of the journalists, the beautiful picture reveals the horror and their journey progressively turns into a nightmare." French actress Irene Jacob plays one of the reporters.

Manthan

Directed by Shyam Benegal

This 1976 film, whose restored print will be shown in the indispensable Cannes Classics, was financed by the donations of 500,000 Indian farmers and thus holds the distinction of being the first crowdfunded production in India. A fictionalised account of a real event, the film tells the story of a veterinarian who arrives in a poor rural village to start a milk co-operative, with the hope of improving the livelihoods of struggling dairy farmers. Manthan was India's submission to the Oscars in 1977.

La Belle De Gaza

Directed by Yolande Zauberman

This is as close as Cannes gets this year to addressing the word Gaza in its programme. The documentary film La Belle De Gaza is the work of Yolande Zauberman, and it follows the ordeal of a transsexual person from Gaza who seeks her future in Tel Aviv. It sounds like something that pushes all the hot buttons at the moment. We may expect real and symbolic protests in and around the glitzy festival in the next 10 days, but the politics of the Middle East seems to take a low profile here.

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