Culture in France

In search of beauty at Cannes Directors' Fortnight

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It’s not the sort of thing that happens every day of the week. Imagine. You make your first feature film and it’s included in a selection at one of the most famous of all international film festivals. That’s exactly the sort of thing that happens thanks at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs which runs parallel to the main Cannes Film Festival in May.

Rosslyn Hyams/RFI

The Director’s Fortnight, as it's also known in English is the brainchild of the French Film Directors' Guild - the SRF.

It actually took off with the spirit of cultural revolt in the West after 1968. It’s first outing was cobbled together in a matter of a couple of months and featured films from some of today’s big names, like Louis Malle and Robert Bresson.

Gust Van Der Berghe

For 42 years this festival has been a select showcase for young filmmakers and also for some of the better known independent directors.

Frédéric Boyer, artistic director of the Director's Fortnight, announced his first selection this year at the Forum des Images municipal cinema in Paris.

It included 24 feature films, as well as short films, medium length, and for the first time, four documentaries. Thirty-one of the films are world premières. Eleven of them are first films. The selection committee found one film in Brazil, one in Paraguay  - both shot with digital photo cameras, moreover - one in Malaysia, three out of Africa as well as several from France, elsewhere in Europe – east and west -- and north America.

“It’s very healthy for the whole Cannes Festival to have a totally independent selection, says Boyer. "There are no prizes, no best actor, best director. It’s equality of films. Short and long features are equal. Last year we had Coppola and we also had a small film from Iran. It was the same. The same lunch on the same terrace.”

Boyer, who with his colleagues watches thousands of films, says,if it's about cinema, if it's about art, then it has to be about beauty.

For this year’s festival, they found beauty in the streets of Kinshasa in Congo where the opening film of the Director’s Fortnight called Benda Bilili, described as a musical, was made.

Like many others, they found beauty in established filmmaker, Frederik Wiseman’s documentary film Boxing Gym, which is being shown in a special screening.

They found beauty in four French films, which Boyer says are remarkably different one from the other, as much in treatment as in subject matter. You wouldn’t guess from its title or from the name of the director that one of them, a short by Pradeepan Raveendran called Shadows of Silence, is French.

Cam Archer

Some of today's cult figures like Jim Jarmusch and Werner Herzog, Ken Loach and Star Wars director George Lucas had their first features selected by the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. It was the same Director’s Fortnight that had selected the first film of previous Cannes winners like the Dardenne brothers from Belgium.

Gust Van der Berghe is also Belgian. The Director’s Fortnight selection committee found beauty in his black-and-white first-feature film called Baby Jesus of Flandr.

Speaking in Brussels two and a half weeks before the screenings begin, he said coolly with a smile, “I think I’ll get nervous after the festival. For now it’s a good trip.”

Maybe a committed artist like Gust Van der Berghe will join the ranks of the good and great film-makers of our times.

As did Michael Haneke another of the Director’s Fortnight’s protégés, whose film The White Ribbon won the Golden Palm award at the main Cannes Film Festival last year.

Whatever the future has in store for Van der Berghe, his film conjured up images of the sensitive works of Flemish artist Brueghel for Frédéric Boyer, and that suggests he’s off to a good start. 

Click on the link below to see the full list of films selected:
Directors' Fortnight




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