Cannes 2021

Veteran American documentary filmmaker to receive Directors' award at Cannes

US director Frederick Wiseman has made over 40 documentaries, mostly about American institutions.
US director Frederick Wiseman has made over 40 documentaries, mostly about American institutions. Tiziana FABI AFP/File

The Directors' Fortnight, now in its 53rd year, has announced its official selection of films to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The recipient of this year's Carrosse d'Or prize, American director Frederick Wiseman, will present his 2018 film Monrovia, Indiana on 7 July. The Fortnight will also highlight its efforts to bring cinema to the people.

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The Carrosse d’Or prize has been awarded since 2002 by the filmmakers of the French Film Directors’ Guild in recognition of the specific talents and innovation of fellow directors from around the world.

Past winners include John Carpenter (2019), Alain Resnais (2014), Jane Campion (2013), Agnès Varda (2010), David Cronenberg (2006) and Clint Eastwood (2003).

In a statement, the Guild's board of directors wrote that Frederick Wiseman's "rich body of work" had left an "indelible mark on the history of cinema".

Known for his observation of social institutions in the United States, such as hospitals, high schools, and police departments, Wiseman lets the images do the talking, avoiding excess narration.

The first feature-length film Wiseman produced was The Cool World (1963). This was followed by Titicut Follies in 1967, which he produced and directed. He went on to have a prolific career, producing and directing all of his works.

His most recent film was City Hall, which had its world premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival last September.

Signs of hope

"Never has anyone laid such patient, humane, curious, understanding, empathetic and politically acute eyes on people and the institutions helping them, holding them back or revealing them," the directors said of Wiseman's career, addressing him in their letter.

"Everywhere, in all contexts, you have painted incredibly compelling portraits of people, doing their best, wherever they may be in life. Small steps that offer hope for bigger ones, the many facets of mankind on either side of a doctor, mayor, or police officer’s desk, the beating heart of living spaces, from parks to ski resorts, from universities to backstage at theaters."

Wiseman has also directed and been involved in theater, in the US and France.

His 2018 film about a small US farming community, Monrovia Indiana, will be screened at the Opening ceremony of the Fortnight on 7 July, followed by a masterclass.

Among the 23 feature films in the Fortnight selection, seven are first films, and 22 are by directors who have never come to Cannes before, among them French director Yassine Qnia, with her film De bas étage (A Brighter Tomorrow).

One name familiar to French audiences is author/director Emmanuel Carrère with his film Ouistreham (Between Two Worlds), the opening opus of the Directors' Fortnight, and his first film since 2005. It is based on the autobiographical experience of journalist Florence Aubenas, who spent six months living anonymously among workers affected by the economic crisis. Juliette Binoche plays the lead role, surrounded by an amateur cast.

The actrice Luàna Bajrami, who stood out in 2019 award winner Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on fire), will present her first feature film called Luaneshat e kodrës (The Hill where Lionesses Roar).

There are nine short films in the lineup, as well as a special screening of The Souvenir Part II by British director Joanna Hogg. The much-anticipated sequel to the hit 2019 drama stars Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton and Charlie Heaton in the lead roles.

Mon Légionnaire (Our Men) by Rachel Lang is the closing film of the Fortnight.

Reaching out to the community

The Directors' Fortnight also prides itself on pedagogical initiatives and a community outreach in a programme called the La Quinzaine en Actions (The Fortnight in Action), with events throughout the year across France.

The programme aims to bring the cinema to the people, in particular young people in disadvantaged areas who don't have access to culture for geographic or financial reasons.

"Reducing inequality when it comes to accessing culture, and reducing exclusion felt by some of the population. Culture is not a luxury, it's essential to our well-being," the Fortnight organisers say.

Films from the selection are screened followed by meet-the-director exchanges.

During the festival itself, a number of screenings, workshops, readings and performances have been planned at the Théatre de la Licorne in Cannes' La Bocca district.

One such event will feature actors recruited to perform the scenarios written by a group of eight women, supported by the organisation Parcours de Femmes (Women's Way) which gets women back on their feet professionally after a period of difficulty.

Young graduates from the CinéFabrique group at the National Film School in Lyon will produce three of the scripts, with the collaboration of CinéFab and France Télévisions.

To keep the festive spirit alive, the Fortnight also organises reruns of its selected films in cities like Brussels (in August) Marseille, and Paris (in September).

Poster design by photographer and filmmaker Daniel Mercadante, is part of his series "The Enchanted Forest", chosen for the Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) at Cannes Film Festival, 2021.
Poster design by photographer and filmmaker Daniel Mercadante, is part of his series "The Enchanted Forest", chosen for the Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) at Cannes Film Festival, 2021. © Directors' Fortnight

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