Category Archives: Cannes Film Festival

Cannes: The best of the 70th edition

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 70th anniversary edition of the Festival de Cannes hass finally come to a close. The event came to an end on the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière, where Mistress of Ceremonies Monica Bellucci welcomed the Feature Film Jury presided by Pedro Almodóvar to announce the 2017 prize-winners. This year’s Palme d’or, The Square,  was screened at the end of the prize-giving ceremony to close the Festival.

Check out the list of this year’s award winners and see which ones you like!



THE SQUARE directed by Ruben ÖSTLUND

The Palme d’or was awarded by Juliette Binoche and Pedro Almodóvar.




The 70th Anniversary Award was awarded by Will Smith.



120 BATTEMENTS PAR MINUTE (BPM – Beats Per Minute) directed by Robin CAMPILLO

The Grand Prix was awarded by Costa-Gavras and Agnès Jaoui.




The Best Director Prize was awarded by Fan BingBing and Gabriel Yared.



The Best Performance by an Actor Prize was awarded by Jessica Chastain.



Diane KRUGER in AUS DEM NICHTS (In The Fade) directed by Fatih AKIN

The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded by Irène Jacob and Paolo Sorrentino



NELYUBOV (Loveless) directed by Andrey ZVYAGINTSEV

The Jury Prize was awarded by Maren Ade and Guillaume Gallienne.





The Best Screenplay Prize was awarded by Marisa Paredes and Park Chan-wook.



XIAO CHENG ER YUE (A Gentle Night) directed by QIU Yang



KATTO (The Ceiling) directed by Teppo AIRAKSINEN

The Palme d’or and the Jury Special Mention for Shorts Films were awarded by Uma Thurman and Cristian Mungiu.



LERD (A Man of Integrity) directed by Mohammad RASOULOF






BARBARA directed by Mathieu AMALRIC






LAS HIJAS DE ABRIL (April’s Daughter) directed by Michel FRANCO


JEUNE FEMME (Montparnasse Bienvenüe) directed by Léonor SERRAILLE presented as part of UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Caméra d’or Prize was awarded by Sandrine Kiberlain, President of the Caméra d’or Jury.



PAUL EST LÀ (Paul Is Here) directed by Valentina MAUREL
INSAS, Belgium

HEYVAN (AniMal) directed by Bahram & Bahman ARK
Iranian National School of Cinema, Iran

DEUX ÉGARÉS SONT MORTS (Two Youths Died) directed by Tommaso USBERTI
La Fémis, France

The CST Jury decided to award the VULCAIN PRIZE FOR ARTIST-TECHNICIAN to: Josefin ASBERG for her remarkable artistic contribution to match the inventiveness of the film THE SQUARE.




Swedish drama ‘The Square’ takes top prize at Cannes

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Cannes Film Festival jury awarded its coveted Palme d’Or award to Ruben Ostlund’s “The Square” today. The Swedish drama stars Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss and Claes Bang.

Other winners included Sofia Coppola, who took best director for “The Beguiled”; Diane Kruger, who took best actress; and Joaquin Phoenix, who took best actor.

More to come…

(Source:, The Envelope)

French under-18s to be allowed to watch real sex scenes in cinemas

Posted by Larry Gleeson
Minors in France will no longer be automatically barred from watching films containing real, non-simulated sex scenes, according to a report, as the Ministry of Culture is set to liberalize domestic laws on film classifications.

France’s Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay will issue a decree softening the criteria for banning films to those aged under 18 as soon as next month, BFM TV reports.

Until now, a decree dating from 2003 stipulates that films “with non-simulated or very violent sex scenes” must be banned for children under 18 years of age. It means that any film covered by the description must be automatically prohibited to minors.

Joel Chapron, UniFrance head of research and distributor relations, and Cannes Film Festival consultant (Photo via

“To ban children under 18 from watching films is nonsense,” Joel Chapron, UniFrance head of research and distributor relations, and Cannes Film Festival consultant, told RT.

“Society has long surpassed cinema. If people younger than 18 are making love in real life, don’t they have a right to watch a similar movie in the cinema? It’s double-dealing, insincerity, hypocrisy.”


The new decree will put an end to this ‘automaticity,’ the Ministry of Culture says.

“The ban on children below the age of 18 will no longer be automatically applied to works containing non-simulated sex scenes, but [will be] reserved for works involving scenes of sex or violence likely to seriously offend the sensitivity of minors,” the Ministry of the Culture stated, as quoted by BFM TV.

The new decree is thought to have been prompted by a report presented last year by Jean-Francois Mary, chairman of the French film classification commission. According to the report, the criterion of ‘non-simulated’ sex was outdated because “a scene can be quite explicit on the screen, while being simulated during the shooting.”

Explicit scene still from Gasper Noe’s erotic 3D melodrama ‘Love.’ (Photo via


In 2015, Gaspar Noé’s erotic 3D melodrama ‘Love,’ awash with explicit sexual scenes, provoked a war of words and ratings in France.

The film, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, was initially rated 16, meaning that children under that age could not watch it in French cinemas. Worried about the sexual nature of the film, then-Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin asked the ratings board for a second review, recommending a stronger rating.

The minister came under fire from the French Directors Guild (L’ARP) and film distribution and international sales giant Wild Bunch.

“We have nothing to gain from being in the game of conservatism and puritanism,” L’ARP said in a statement, as quoted by the Hollywood Reporter.

The ‘moralization’ of works, the intimate friend of censorship, is a dangerous game. The filmmakers of ARP remain convinced that poetry, sexual as it is, [from] filmmaker Gaspar Noé, will remain a better educational source than that of porn debauchery permanently available on the internet,” it added.

The French ratings board ignored Pellerin’s judgment, and the certificate for the erotic movie remained unchanged


FILM REVIEW: Divines (Benyamina, 2016): France

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-01-54-amDivines is the first feature length film by self-taught director Houda Benyamina. Benyamina, Actress Oulaya Amamra, and Divines were AFIFEST 2016 winners of the New Auteurs Audience Award, the Breakthrough Audience Award and a Special Jury Mention for Acting.

The film opens in surreal fashion with an out of focus frame containing a smoke and fog-like effect reminiscent of a meditation and indicative of the filmmaker’s use of dream logic.

Quickly, homage is made to Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, with lead character, Dounia, played exquisitely by Oulaya Amamra, standing in front of a mirror pretending to fire a pistol while asking, “You looking at me?” Later in the film another homage to Scorcese is made from his early work,  Mean Streets, with Dounia on her knees  in the middle of the street pleading with God.


And, without too much adieu, Benyamina quickly takes us into the inner world of her lead character, Dounia. In a sacred space Dounia sneaks voyeuristically in a low-key lit, high-angle omniscient shot looking down on a theater stage during an audition. She likes what she sees in the form of Djigui, a dancer with moves and passion, played by Kevin Mishel.

A transition is made to a rambunctious classroom. Soon, Dounia is arguing with hyper intensity as Dounia questions her teacher’s values and choice of vocation. The moment culminates with Dounia quitting school vowing to “show them.” Her vocation is to make money.

Another transition is made to a slow motion sequence in a darkly lit dance club playing diagetic music from a singing disc jockey. Here we see Dounia’s troubled mother inebriated and looking for love in all the wrong places – a common scenario throughout Divines for Dounia’s mother.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-08-25-amBefore long, Dounia witnesses a drug stash in the back of the theater. Dounia seizes the moment and takes the stash to a local dealer with her best friend, Maimouna, an Iman’s daughter, played by Deborah Lukumuena. The circle is complete as the drug dealer, Rebecca, played handsomely by Jisca Kalvanda, rounds out a strong cast of mostly female characters.

Throughout Divines, Dounia is searching for dignity. She lives in a Roma (gypsy) camp on the outskits of Paris and is frequently called Bastard. She discovers drug dealing as a way to gain respect and power. Before long, however, Dounia finds out the price she must pay for her vocation might be too high.

In Divines, Benyamina illuminates an emerging Parisian subculture made up of colorful, fringe characters steeped in Islam highlighting their highly creative, unique, and authentic stories. In furthering her artistic vision to democratize cinema, Benyamina formed a mutual assistance cinematic trade association, 1000 Visages (Faces).


Possibly quite coincidentally, American mythologist, Joseph Campbell’s tome, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” a seminal work on archetypal heroes and myths shared by world religions and traditions, contains the association’s name in the book’s title. However, I believe Benyamina has dissected the work drawing extensively from its teachings as we witness the transformation of Dounia.

For a first feature, Benyamina’s Divines is polished. Costuming is realistic. The camera work and editing augment the film’s reality well. The musical score sets the mood and aids in pacing. And the acting is quite good. Highly recommended.

Revolution of new Egyptian cinema at Cairo film fest

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Cristiana Missori

CAIRO – Eight square meters for 25 prisoners – American journalists, Muslim Brothers, common citizens – who were arrested by Egyptian police during violent demonstrations following the ouster of Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013 star in the opening film of the International film festival in Cairo.

These characters, detained together for a whole day, are featured in Eshtebak (Clash) by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab, that opened the section ‘Un certain regard’ at the latest Cannes Film Festival.

The movie will be presented on Friday night at the Cairo event, which runs until November 24.

It was greenlighted by censors in July and hit movie theaters. However, the film was pulled out a few days later, as denounced by the filmmaker.

And the festival’s artistic director, Youssef Rizkallah, has decided to screen other controversial movies.

Several films focusing on key issues of the 2011 revolution and 2013 protests will be screened in the section dedicated to new Egyptian cinema (eight films have been produced between 2015 and 2016).

They focus on the violence of those terrible days of Raba’a Al Adaweya – when over 600 civilians were killed and thousands wounded – as well as human and sentimental relations during those events with the uprising on the background.

One of them is Sins of the Flesh by Haram El Gasad, which is set in a remote farm in the Egyptian countryside where echoes of the uprising impact the lives of protagonists, and Out of Order by Mahmoud Kamel and Bitter Moon by Hany Khalifa. A box-office hit to be screened is also Hepta: the Last Lecture by Hadi El-Bagoury, a movie based on the best seller by the same name.

There are lighter stories that talk about sex (never explicitly), food and betrayal, like the latest work by Yousry Nasrallah, Books, Meadows and Lovely Faces, presented a few days ago at the Medfilm festival in Rome. Another is the latest movie by Mohamed Khan, Before the Summer Crowds, and Nawara by Hala Khalil focusing on social inequality in the country.


Netflix Reveals Trailer for Acclaimed Film DIVINES

DIVINES, one of the most critically acclaimed and talked-about films at this year’s Cannes film festival and recent awards winner at the American Film Institute’s AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi, will be available to Netflix subscribers exclusively today, November 18th. Get a first look below!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-01-54-amThe funny, suspenseful and often emotional drama tells the story of Dounia, a tough, but naive teenager who sees getting rich or dying trying as her most viable option in life. Set in a ghetto near Paris where drugs and religion reign supreme, Dounia is hungry for her share of power and success. Enlisting the help of her best friend she decides to follow the footsteps of a respected and successful neighborhood dealer. But when Dounia meets a strong-willed and sensual dancer, her life takes a surprising turn.

Houda Benyamina’s energetic directorial debut was awarded the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the best first feature film presented in one of the event’s selections. Most recently, the film received multiple accolades yesterday AFIFEST. Benyamina,  Oulaya Amamra, and Divines were winners of the New Auteurs Audience Award, Breakthrough Audience Award and the Special Jury Mention for Acting.

Cast: Oulaya Amamra (Dounia), Déborah Lukumuena (Maimounia), Kévin Mischel (Djigui), Jisca Kalvanda (Rebecca), Yasin Houicha (Samir), Majdouline Idrissi (Myriam)

The film was written by Romain Compingt, Houda Benyamina and Malik Rumeau and produced by Marc-Benoît Créancier.

(Excerpted from, BWW News Desk)

FILM REVIEW: Laurence Anyways (Dolan, 2012): Canada

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson.

affiche_bigViewed during the Santa Barbara International Film. Laurence Anyways, is a visual feast as Canadian director, Xavier Dolan, tells a love story between two highly charged individuals, Fred, played by Suzanne Clement a fashionable female film and television producer, and Laurence, played by Melvil Poupad, an up and coming successful, thirty-something in his own right who has decided he wants to be a woman and that he’s always wanted to be a woman. Imagine that!

While definitely viewed as a game-changer  Laurence’s decision to become a woman  isn’t really the central focus of the film despite the amount of attention Dolan provides for it as we see Laurence first few awkward moments and then his full on embodiment and womanly maturation.  Nevertheless, the film wouldn’t have the soul to evolve without the essence of Fred as his fiance. Despite all the hype about the film being a caricature of a transvestite it’s a real love story between Fred and Laurence that takes place over the course of the ten years we are privy to in Mr. Dolan’s long tale.girlfriend for this film is really a portrait of their relationship over the course of ten years. They play wonderfully off each other, immediately conjuring intimate undercurrent  relationship squabbles, shared amusements, and deep understanding of one another and each ones  personal and emotional needs.

Laurence isn’t gay per se, yet Fred unequivocally states she wants to be  with a man. Respectfully and with tremendous courage both Laurence and Fred try to go with it. Also of interest to note about Laurence  – his mother, played by Nathalie Baye,  hated her son but now loves her daughter. Poupad really seems to capture the very assertive yet conflicted nature of Laurence as he meanders emotionally revealing deep scarring in his psyche. Yet by the end of the film it’s become obvious Suzanne Clements has literally stolen the show with her round-robin buildup of intense emotional pandering to the man she so deeply loves and it’s her eyes that treat the viewer to Laurance’s transformation.

Undoubtedly, Dolan is establishing himself as a filmmaker and editor of quite some skill, having won awards at Cannes and at Toronto, and here takes on the costume design as well. Granted often said the clothes don’t make the man but in Laurence Anyways, the costumes illuminate the characters and raise them to a level of such visual delight I would venture to say these costumes help make the characters and assuredly radiate their inner  light. In addition, Dolan seems to  handle the  obvious story beats with a crisp, elegant, and understated style and permeates the screen with an eye for color, pattern, and composition and with a solid dose of fetishism. He also cuts a mean musical score here as well using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to accompany a superb montage of raw emotion as the causality of the  relationship implodes.

The film runs at 2:45 minutes. In my opinion, the story needs a little more brevity. Still, I give it a strong endorsement as it hits a home run with the 80’s nostalgia, the actor’s powerful performance levels,  the gorgeous cinematography, and the colorful characters magnified so profoundly by the  extraordinary costume design. Highly recommended.

The AFI FEST Interview: DIVINES Director Houda Benyamina

Disenchanted and unimpressed by the parameters of life in the slums of Paris, a fearless and ferocious teenager named Dounia unabashedly dreams of prosperity, not only for herself but also for her charismatic best friend and alcoholic mother. In her audacious pursuit of money, power and respect, she aligns herself with a ruthless gangster who uses her as a pawn to exact revenge on a rival drug lord. When their plan goes off the rails and escalates into violent territory, Dounia is forced to reconcile the allure of quietly escaping to the life of her dreams with the reality of the ramifications of her actions. Shot in a style that is at once melodic and discordant, DIVINES is a cinematic haiku of empowerment, youthful angst, racial inequality and the consequences of poverty.

Winner of the Camera d’Or prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, DIVINES is the feature film debut of director Houda Benyamina.

AFI: Oulaya Amamra gives an intense performance as the raw and uninhibited protagonist Dounia.  How did you develop that character?

Houda Benyamina: One year of physical training was necessary. Dounia is a fighter whoscreen-shot-2016-11-06-at-10-20-16-am develops an incredible lust for life and you had to feel it through Oulaya’s body. Her body had to embody this strength and this lust for surpassing herself; that is why Oulaya took boxing and parkour lessons. Apart from that, the character had to be in peak physical condition to keep up with the pace of the rehearsals and of the shooting. This was long and intense, and needed stamina.

Dounia has a cat-like side, she slides in and out of underpasses, passageways; she is at the same time deep down and high up. So Oulaya’s task was to watch documentaries on felines to grasp their way of being and moving. She also viewed a lot of gangster films and films in which the hero is transforming. We were looking for an organic transformation and this required an important identifying process. Oulaya suggested lots of ideas of clothing. During a whole year she wore Dounia’s clothes, she ate, slept and lived like Dounia. She even went sleeping in a gypsy camp because she had to understand her character’s rage due to a feeling of injustice, and to be able to find in herself Dounia’s anger for being ostracized.

AFI: What was your rehearsal process?

HB: During the shooting I developed a sort of safety line around the actors to protect them from any lapse in concentration. The camera, for instance, was on all the time so that the crew did not have to care about it and could keep focused on the actors. To me the film set is like a sanctuary, a holy place. I ask everybody to be extremely concentrated, full of solemnity toward the actors acting. And it is very important to me.

AFI: Questions of race and class inequality come up in the script. How did those themes shape the characters and plot?

HB: DIVINES is a film on spirituality and holiness. What was important to me was the apocalyptic ending. How does one rise from the ashes? How does one learn [that] there are so many things which shape us: family, social class, education, politics — but through these primary determinisms, I wanted to raise the question of free will and how it appeared in these characters looking for appreciation and dignity. Injustice is my driving force to creation. I feel close to my characters, who oscillate between darkness and light; I like exploring the two sides of human beings. Social inequality and the hunger to overcome are present for sure, but they are elements of the characters and not their essence. The essence centers on them and their inner lives.

Most important was to arouse emotion, because it makes us think and allows us to understand and question society. I intended to make a universal film with universal issues of love, friendship, the quest for recognition and dignity, and ambition.

AFI: You’re a celebrated short filmmaker. What made you want to make the transition to feature film?

HB: It was important to find someone who understands me and has the same artistic and human values, and I found him: my producer, Marc-Benoît Créancier. Once we had made my medium-length film SUR LA ROUTE DU PARADIS together, it was obvious to me to make a feature film. As a film director and a great believer I have lots of doubts and I ask myself lots of questions. My producer helps me overcome them; he encourages and guides me and he trusts me so much that making a feature film with him was a foregone conclusion.

AFI: In one sentence, what statement or question would like to linger with the audience following the screening?

HB: What do I really need to succeed?

DIVINES screens at AFI FEST 2016 on Saturday, November 12, and Monday, November 14, as part of the New Auteurs section of the festival.



Five Soviet Movies That Shook The World

2016 has been named ‘The Year of Cinema’ in Russia, with extra funds allocated for the local film industry. Russian Sputnik News service recalls five Soviet movies which left a lasting impression worldwide and are still looked up at as examples of stunning cinematography.

The Cranes are Flying, 1957 (Letyat Zhuravli)

This military drama, based on the play “Eternally Alive” (“Vechno zhivye”) by Viktor Rozov was directed at Mosfilm studio by the Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov. The Cranes are Flying has become the first and so far the only domestic film to have been awarded the Palme d’Or — the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

With surprising emotional power, the film reveals a tragic story of two lovers, who were cruelly and permanently separated by war. Picasso himself was shocked, saying he had not seen anything like this in the last hundred years.

In order to film some of the epic scenes, Russian cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky invented and built the first operator’s circular rail. Some of the groundbreaking techniques he pioneered are still used by filmmakers. According to renowned American film critic Todd McCarthy, the influence of Kalatozov and Urusevsky was obvious in the 2015 Oscar-winning movie The Revenant.

Battleship Potemkin, 1925 (Bronenosets Potyomkin)


In 1958, this Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World’s Fair. Twenty years later, film critics worldwide rated this movie first on their hundred best films list. And in 2009, the Russian drama was cited as one of the top 15 blockbusters to have had the greatest impact on world cinema.

Created in just four months, Battleship Potemkin was ordered by the Soviet government, which needed propaganda material to mark the anniversary of the First Russian Revolution. In 1926 in Germany, the government tried to ban the film. A few years later, mutineers aboard the Dutch ship “De Zeven Provinciën” claimed that their revolt was inspired by this film.

Hundreds of examples can be found in world cinema copying the principles of the film’s famous shooting scene. The scene was directly quoted in Coppola’s Godfather, Gilliam’s Brazil, and De Palma’s The Untouchables. Even The Simpsons have referenced Eisenstein.

Andrei Rublev, 1966

A sincere biographical historical drama directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky is loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, the great 15th-century Russian icon painter. A version of the film was shown at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize from The International Federation of Film Critics).

Tarkovsky sought to create a film that shows the artist as “a world-historic figure” and Christianity “as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity” during a turbulent period of Russian history. It became a real eye-opener for Western audiences, which had perceived the Soviet Union as a bastion of atheism and godlessness.

At home, the film was often labeled as “Anti-Russian, antipatriotic and ahistorical.” The Soviet government refused to release the movie until 1971, when a censored version of the film was released. According to a 1978 survey of world film critics, the film had become one of the hundred best movies in the history of cinema. The European Film Academy in 1995 included it in its ten best films of world cinema.

War and Peace, 1966-67

Leo Tolstoy’s immortal novel has been adopted for the silver screen and television several times. The Soviet war drama written and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk won the Golden Globe Award in 1969 for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first Soviet picture to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and also the longest film ever to receive an Academy Award. Produced by the Mosfilm studios and released in four parts, the film became the most expensive one ever made in the USSR, at a cost of 8,291,712 Soviet rubles, equal to 9,213,013 USD in 1967 or over 66 mln USD in today’s money. In 1967, the film was entered into the 1967 Cannes Film Festival outside of the competition; it was sent there instead of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.

Bondarchuk’s War and Peace became known for its large-scale battle scenes and use of innovative panoramic filming of battlefields. Several scenes were shot using a hand-held 1KSSHR camera, which weighed about 10 kg and required uncommon physical strength when wielded by film operator Anatoly Petritsky.

Some unusual techniques were adopted by the film makers during the shooting. Some scenes of the Battle of Borodino were taken with the camera fixed on a 120-meter-long cable, which was stretched across the battlefield. To “dive” into the atmosphere of the Natasha Rostova’s first ball, Petritsky stood on roller skates and was moved among the waltzing couples by an assistant. These techniques were included in a documentary about filming the movie and were later used as study material for the training of future operators.

Hedgehog in the Fog, 1975

This Soviet animated film was directed by Yuriy Norshteyn and produced by Soyuzmultfilm animation studio in Moscow. In 1976, the cartoon won its first prizes at the All-Union festival of animated films in Frunze and at the Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults in Tehran. In 2003, the cartoon was crowned the best animated film of all time in Japan and worldwide from among a top-150 list created by 140 critics and animators from different countries. The main hero of this animated film, the Hedgehog, received its own sculpture in Kiev. The film was also referenced in one of the episodes of the animated comedy series Family Guy, “Spies Reminiscent of Us” in 2009.

Famous Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki, who created such anime masterpieces as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, named this Soviet story about a little hedgehog his favorite work.

Interesting techniques were used during the cartoon’s creation. The fog effects were created by putting a very thin piece of paper on top of the scene and slowly lifting it up toward the camera frame-by-frame until everything behind it became blurry and white. The film also used a trick of combined filming; for example, the water was real, albeit hatched by the artist.