61st Cannes Film Festival

France, May 14 - May 24 2008

The jury

Howard Feinstein (US), Lisa Nesselson (France), Joao Antunes (Portugal), Mohammed Rouda (UK), Kirill Razlogov (Russia), Christian Monggaard (Denmark), Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere (France), Dinko Tucakovic (Serbia-Montenegro)

Awarded films

The selection of films for any festival is frequently a function of chance: which films are ready and available, in particular. So spotting “tendencies” in a festival’s program is not necessarily an accurate approach. Nevertheless, a number of films in the official selection at Cannes this year did have a common denominator: They revealed a curiosity not for a reinvented reality but rather for the world as it is.

The best films reflected a revival of realism in all its forms, ranging from the classical political thriller (Italian Matteo Garrone’s Gomorra, about the Camorra, the Mafia of Naples) to the more intimate socio-psychological drama (the painful portrayal of a decaying Turkish family in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys; the bitter fate of a female Albanian immigrant in Belgium in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Lorna’s Silence). Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas took an intensive look at Sao Paulo in Linha de passe, whereas Jia Zhang-ke addressed the consequences of a factory shutdown in a Chinese province in 24 City. Pablo Trapero exposed the dreadful conditions inside an Argentinean prison in Lion’s Den. Israeli director Ari Folman took the Israeli military to task in his animated documentary, Waltzing with Bashir. Even Clint Eastwood’s story of a mother searching for her disappeared son, Changeling, included a critique of the rampant corruption in both the civilian administration and the police department in Los Angeles at the end of the 1920s.

This year’s official selection marked the most significant plea in years for an authors’ cinema and its worldview, including, astonishingly enough, two French films: Laurent Cantet’s The Class, an impressive study of multiculturalism within a Paris school (winner of the Golden Palm); and Raymond Depardon’s Modern Life, a documentary about farmers in a remote mountain region.

The return of filmmakers who had earlier won palms characterized Cannes 2008. Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, 1984) presented Palermo Shooting; Steven Soderbergh, whose career had begun with the Golden Palm for Sex, Lies and Videtape in 1989, showed the two parts of his biopic on Che Guevara, Che. The Dardennes (Golden Palms for Rosetta in 1999 and The Child in 2005) came to the Cote d’Azur with Lorna’s Silence. Ceylan had his third Cannes entry with Three Monkeys — following Distant (Grand Prix in 2003) and Climates (2006).

As far as the market goes, rumor was that business was down. If true, this could mean that some of the Cannes films face more difficult distribution problems outside their own territories — and sometimes within. The contradiction between the festivities of Cannes and the everyday offering in theaters around the corner seems to get bigger.

In the framework of the Critics’ Week, FIPRESCI presented Mexican Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe as a film which, after appearing at Berlin in February, deserved another look and a second chance for a wider public.(Klaus Eder)