Go backBack to selection

15 Films Not to Miss at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival


Amidst wi-fi and cellular outages, a threatened workers’ strike, and dialogue around the #MeToo movement in France, the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is underway. For Filmmaker, Vadim Rizov and Blake Williams are both back with on-the-ground reports and Critics Notebooks, and we begin with this list of 15 films that might be sliding under your radar. You don’t need us to recommend Coppola’s Megalopolis, Schrader’s Oh Canada, Cronenberg’s The Shrouds or any of the other titles from the higher-profile auteurs. Instead, we’ve focused here on debuting directors, U.S. independents, and arthouse auteurs who have dazzled us with previous work.

Gazer. This year represents the sophomore effort for the current, Julien Rejl-led regime at the Quinzaine des cinéastes sidebar, and they’ve once again asserted their taste for a particular, scrappy brand of American genre cinema that we hadn’t often seen on the Croisette. Last year it was Razooli Weston’s spontaneous and adolescent fairytale, Riddle of Fire, and now we have Gazer from Ryan J. Sloan, which was shot on 16mm and had a production period that lasted two years—filmed predominantly on nights and weekends, between lead actor Ariella Mastroianni’s shifts working as a programmer at the Angelika Film Center in New York. The premise, about a “young mother with a rare degenerative brain condition, called dyschronometria, who struggles to perceive time,” is predictably already being compared to Cronenberg and Nolan. — Blake Williams

Grand Tour. Prior to the pandemic, Miguel Gomes was working on an adaptation of Euclides da Cunha’s monumental Rebellion in the Backlands, an important (and very readable!) work about the 19th-century rebellion led against the Brazilian government by Antônio Conselheiro and the village of Canudos. As far as I can tell from Google Translated stories, that project is still in the works, but in the meantime Gomes’s latest (the first Portuguese feature in Cannes competition in 18 years, the last being Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth) seems to offer a return to the terrain of Tabu, offering another variation on doomed colonial romance, interpolated with footage he shot on a “research trip” to Asia. (Nice work if you can get it.) — Vadim Rizov

Eephus and Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point: “We can only pick one.” That’s the sentence sometimes heard within selection committees, or perhaps written in festival rejection letters, to justify an exclusionary programming decision. When debating two films sharing a storyline, lead actor, director or, sometimes, production company, programmers will pick one and apologize to the other. So that’s what makes the appearance in Director’s Fortnight of two films from the L.A. independent production collective Omnes Films — picked for Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces list in 2021 — so noteworthy. Amidst, presumably, a slew of high-profile distributor-backed submissions they’ve chosen two acquisition films — Carson Lund’s Eephus and Tyler Taormina’s Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point  — that share common DNA (from the same collective), personnel (Eephus director Lund, for example, shot Christmas) and, most importantly, a kind of conceptual ethos. Both are large ensemble films in which the the textures and meanings produced by communal events (a final baseball game for a grown men’s amateur league at a soon-to-be-built-over field and the last Christmas for an extended family in their Long Island neighborhood’s ancestral home) are expressively rendered by a group of filmmakers undimmed by the current doom-and-gloom talk prevalent in American independent cinema. — Scott Macaulay’

Viet and Nam. If we’re going to put money on who the breakout of this year’s festival will be, it’d be on Minh Quý Trương, whose third feature is screening in Un Certain Regard. A “self-described “inward person” who likes to “let [his] mind free and be lost as it wants,” Quý has drawn some comparisons to Alain Guiraudie and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and seems primed to put the current wave of Vietnamese arthouse cinema on the map. I’ve not caught up with Quý’s first two features, The City of Mirror: A Fictional Biography (2016) and The Tree House (2019), but based only on his contemplative, queer, wholly beautiful short film, The Men Who Wait, which I caught in a virtual edition of Rotterdam in 2021, he’s the real deal. Like that short, his new film is concerned with coal mining, and dreams of the queer utopias of elsewhere. — BW

September Says. As Yorgos Lanthimos’s wife and regular on-screen performer, it’s no surprise that Ariane Labed’s first short as a director, 2019’s Olla, shared both tonal and visual affinities with her partner’s work. But Olla was a good deal better and more interesting than anything Lanthimos has done since The Lobster (I’m aware this is a minority opinion!), so I’m excited to see Labed’s first feature as a writer-director, a story of familial tensions during an Irish holiday adapted from Daisy Johnson’s novel Sisters. — VR

Rumours. Guy Maddin and his now-regular stable of fraternal collaborators, Evan & Galen Johnson, make their Cannes debut Out of Competition (per Maddin, it’d have been simply unfair to the other directors if his film were a candidate for the Palme). Known for their appropriation of late Silent Cinema montage, early Sound Era stylings, and distinctly Canadian self-deprecation, Maddin and the Johnsons here conjure a fictional edition of the annual G7 summit, mounting a scenario in which the seven world leaders get lost in the woods amidst their discussions of the climate crisis. Early images suggest that the presence of Ari Aster as executive producer and A-listers like Cate Blanchett and Alicia Vikander on screen (“the best cast ever assembled,” per Aster) has done little to derail their typically gonzo and painterly mise-en-scene. Will I be disappointed if there isn’t at least one punny jab directed toward Canada’s first national art movement, the Group of Seven? Yes, I will. — BW

Universal Language. Winnipeg becomes, in the director’s words, a fictional “interzone” between the filmmaking cultures of the Canadian city and Tehran in Matthew Rankin’s unclassifiable follow-up to his debut picture, The Twentieth Century. That film recalled the previously mentioned here Guy Maddin with its sometimes over-the-top (an ejaculating cactus!) mise en scene and general feel of accelerated anarchy. For Universal Language, Rankin promises a different rhythm for a film that grew out of his own youthful desire to study film in Iran and was filmed in both French and Farsi. Oscilloscope, which distributed his debut, has already scooped up the U.S. rights. — SM

It Doesn’t Matter. The ACID sidebar tends to be only Cannes section firmly committed to actually independent cinema, and thus rarely features recognizable names (not that that’s prevented them from showing plenty of intriguing titles). This year they surprised us with not only a new, hour-long Guillaume Brac film, but also the sophomore feature by Josh Mond, a lower-profile member of the Borderline Films team (Antonio Campos and Sean Durkin being the primary figures). Led by Christopher Abbott, It Doesn’t Matter follows “the cross country wanderings of Alvaro, a man from Staten Island, and his fortuitous relationship with a young filmmaker.” The title portrays the sort of nihilism many have come to expect from Borderline productions, though I antipate that, like his debut, James White (a highlight of my first Sundance experience back in 2015), there’ll be some warmth at the center of this one. — BW

Flow. Thierry Fremaux has gotten a lot of flack over the years for not showcasing enough animated work. Shrek 2 dubiously screened in Competition as part of his first year as the festival’s Délégué général, with few non-Pixar works screening in the Official Selection ever since. This year he’s making up for lost time, adding six animated films to the selection after the initial April 12 press conference included none (not to mention two others that landed in the Quinzaine). One of those is Latvian animator Gints Zilbalodis’s Flow, which, like Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle (2016, also placed in the Un Certain Regard sidebar), promises a pure cinema journey, sans dialgoue. Plot concerns an aquaphobic feline wandering a drowned world, and the animation samples I found look straight out of an N64 game, which has its charm. — BW

Apprendre. For whatever reason (fear of the future and a desire to confirm Whitney Houston’s prophecy that the children are indeed good to handle it?), long-form documentary portraits of young people being tutored by extremely caring teachers are currently big in Europe. On the heels of Maria Speth’s Mr. Bachmann and His Class (Stadtallendorf in Germany) and Ruth Beckermann’s Favoriten (the titular district in Vienna), now there’s veteran documentarian Claire Simon, who takes on Paris elementary education as a follow-up to her widely-acclaimed Our Body. — VR

Blue Sun Palace. Columbia film school grad Constance Tsang premieres her debut feature, Blue Sun Palace, in this year’s Cannes Critic’s Week. Following well-traveled shorts — her most recent, Beau, is a Vimeo Staff Pick — the picture is set within a Queens massage parlor and the neighborhood’s Chinese community. Two migrant workers there deal with loneliness, estrangement, grief and loss amidst events both quotidian and emotionally shattering. Among the stellar cast are Tsai Ming-liang regular Lee Kang Sheng (he has appeared in all of the director’s feature films), Golden Horse award nominee Wu Ke-Xi (The Road to Mandalay) and Chinese actress Xu Haipeng (Venus By Water). — SM

The Kingdom. After shorts, episodic, non-fiction and commercial work, Corsica-born, Paris-based director Julien Colonna  returns home to shoot his debut feature, The Kingdom, which premieres in Un Certain Regard. It’s a father/daughter drama set against a backdrop of violent criminal intrigue, a tale that offers promising roles for a cast of local discoveries, including leads Ghjuvanna Benedetti and Saveriu Santucci. — SM

Hayao Miyazaki and the Heron. The last decade’s seen a mini-cottage industry of documentaries about Hayao Miyazaki, including Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (good) and Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (not so much). Quotably cranky and poised, cigarette ever at the ready, Miyazaki makes for an ideal subject (cf. his recently recirculated scorched earth take on AI). With Studio Ghibli set to receive an Honorary Palme d’Or, Cannes is screening (once, at 9:30 pm, with hardly any publicity) the latest entry in this sub-genre, following Miyazaki throughout the making of The Boy and the Heron. Given the film’s extremely dramatic production (among other things, producer Toshio Suzuki claims it’s the most expensive film ever made in Japan), this has potential to be a high-water-mark in Miyazaki vérité. — VR

Misericordia. Alain Guiraudie’s new film is a noir of sorts. The press kit interview with Guiraudie (which I ran through Google Translate—my French is non-existent) offers several clues on what to expect. For one, the relentlessly sexually-fixated filmmaker, whose works regularly offer pansexual configurations of desire, is apparently trying out chastity: “I imagine that today, a viewer of my films expects a few things from me, they see roughly where I am going to go. I am well aware of always working on the same questions, the same reasons, and I play with that, with what is expected of me. But I also want to surprise, to surprise myself, to renew myself. Perhaps it was also time that desire did not find its outcome in sex.” This is also apparently a kind of noir, with Hitchcock, Lang, Bergman and Euripides (!) offered as reference points. — VR

© 2024 Filmmaker Magazine. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of The Gotham