Cannes Festival Buzz: 50 Films That Could Make the Lineup

Friday - 08/03/2019 02:15
Andrew Cooper / 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
Andrew Cooper / 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
With the 72nd Cannes International Film Festival just two months away, The Hollywood Reporter takes an exhaustive look at the titles that could bow on the Croisette.

The 72nd Cannes International Film Festival is just two months away and while nothing has been confirmed yet, rumors and reports are flying thick and fast as to who will be storming the Croisette this year. 

After losing Roma to Venice last year — following Cannes' refusal to allow a Netflix-backed film to screen in its competition — Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux will be eager to reach some sort of deal with the streaming giant, if only to make sure he doesn't lose out on hotly anticipated Netflix titles including Martin Scorsese's The Irishman (if it's ready in time); Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat, toplined by Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman; and David Michod's Shakespeare adaptation The King, featuring Ben Mendelsohn, Timothee Chalamet and Joel Edgerton.

Venice has managed to outshine Cannes the past three years — 2018's Lido lineup included Oscar winners The FavouriteRomaFirst Man and A Star Is Born — and Fremaux will be pushing to reassert his position as the boss of the world's number one film fest for this year's event, which is set to run May 14-25.

As the festival goes about making its selections, Fremaux on Saturday will be in Los Angeles, where he’s scheduled to speak about the restoration being done on the Lumiere brothers’ films at the HFPA Restoration Summit, presented by the Hollywood Film Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation and the Institut Lumiere — which should also give him an opportunity to check in on the status of some of the U.S. films under consideration.

Beyond Hollywood, Fremaux, alongside the programmers of the Directors' Fortnight and Un Certain Regard sidebars, should have plenty of prime features to choose from, including the latest from Palme-winning directors  Ken Loach, Abdellatif Kechiche, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Hirokazu Kore-eda. 

Here is The Hollywood Reporter's exhaustive list of titles that could be appearing across Cannes' whole lineup this year.

Pain and Glory — Pedro Almodovar

The Spanish master has had five films in the Cannes competition — as well as opening the 2004 event with the out-of-competition title Bad Education — but has yet to win the Palme d'Or. Almodovar’s latest sees him reteaming with Antonio Banderas (for the eighth time) and Penelope Cruz (for the sixth time) for a psychodrama about a film director looking back on the choices he’s made as his past catches up with him and starts to upend his present.

As Long as the War Lasts — Alejandro Amenabar

Another Spaniard that could make the Cannes competition cut is Amenabar with his first Spanish-language film since his Oscar-winning The Sea Inside in 2004. As Long as the War Lasts documents the last six months in the life of university rector Miguel de Unamuno, who initially supported Francisco Franco's military uprising but began to question his principles after the fascists took over and he was put under house arrest. 

About Endlessness — Roy Andersson

After closing his acclaimed Living trilogy in style — winning Venice's Golden Lion for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence in 2014 — Swedish vignette master Roy Andersson could be welcomed back in the Cannes competition lineup (he competed for the Palme d'Or with 2000's Songs From the Second Floor)  with his latest head-scratching auteur piece, which portends to be about the preciousness and beauty of our existence and features of series of stories that run the gamut from a champagne-loving woman to Adolf Hitler.

Against All Enemies — Benedict Andrews

The sophomore feature from the Australian director of 2016's Una features the red carpet pull of Cannes favorite Kristen Stewart playing the iconic Jean Seberg in this true-life story of the FBI's attempt to discredit Seberg for her support of the Black Panther Party. Jack O’Connell plays the ambitious FBI agent trying to take Seberg down, with Vince Vaughn as his boss and Anthony Mackie playing a civil rights activist. Expect at least an out-of-competition slot for Against All Enemies to ensure Cannes doesn't lose out on Stewart's star wattage. 

Memoria — Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Apichatpong won the Palme D'or in 2010 with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a fever dream of a film that brought Northern Thai folk beliefs to vivid life. The art house darling's latest would seem to promise something similarly evocative, although it is his first feature shot outside of his native Thailand and stars Tilda Swinton. Memoria follows a Scottish woman who begins to notice strange sounds while traveling through the jungles of Colombia. If finished by May, the film would seem a solid bet for Cannes, at least in Un Certain Regard.

Midsommar — Ari Aster

Hereditary’s critical acclaim and box office haul have made Ari Aster’s next frightener with A24 one of the year’s most hotly anticipated horror films. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor and Will Poulter, Midsommar follows a couple traveling to Sweden for a famed mid-summer festival, only to find themselves caught up in the violent goings-on of a pagan cult. With A24 having just released an eerie teaser ahead of a summer (or "sommar") release, Cannes — perhaps a midnight slot — could be the perfect ground to test out the screams. 

The Traitor — Marco Bellocchio

Bellocchio is primed to make his seventh appearance in the Cannes competition with this biopic about Tommaso Buscetta, the first high-ranking member of the Cosa Nostra to break the Sicilian Mafia’s oath of silence. The Match Factory is handling worldwide sales.

Zombi Child — Bertrand Bonello

Bonello's 2016 drama Nocturama, about a group of Parisian youths following a bomb attack in the city, was rejected by Cannes, but the art house auteur remains a festival favorite, having been in competition three times — with Tiresia (2003), House of Tolerance (2011) and Saint Laurent(2014). Zombi Child is described as a mix of "ethnology and fantasy" that jumps between Haiti in 1962 and modern-day Paris in telling the story of Clairvius Narcisse, a Haitian girl turned into a zombie by a voodoo curse, and her aunt, a voodoo priestess. If the subject matter is too touchy, or too weird, for Cannes, expect Zombi Child to turn up in Venice, though Un Certain Regard or a midnight slot could also be in the cards.

Parasite — Boon Joon-ho

Boon Joon-ho's Ojka divided Cannes audiences when it played in competition in 2017 — mainly due to the fact it was backed by Netflix — but the director's return to Korean-language cinema is hotly anticipated, even if not much is known about the plot of Parasite, except that it is a tale of two families whose lives become strangely entangled. Neon picked up the film for North American release at the American Film Market in November.

Ahmed — The Dardenne Brothers

The Belgian siblings have brought every single one of their films to Cannes — dating back to their first Palme d’Or in 1999 for Rosetta — and there’s very little to suggest this should be any different. Telling the typically socially conscious story of a young boy who is radicalized into religious extremism, Ahmed is thought to be reminiscent of the Dardennes’ early work, with a young unknown actor in the lead role.

The Wild Goose Lake — Yi'nan Diao

Yi'nan Diao's follow-up to his Berlin Golden Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice is tipped to mark the Chinese director's return to Cannes, where his sophomore feature Night Train debuted (in the Un Certain Regard section) in 2007. Memento Films International is selling the crime drama, which centers on the leader of a dangerous biker gang on the run who meets a woman willing to give everything to get her freedom back. With the Berlin win behind him, expect Yi'nan Diao's latest to be his Cannes competition debut.

Oh Mercy — Arnaud Desplechin

Desplechin is on track to make his sixth appearance in the Cannes competition with this crime drama. It features Days of Glory's Roschdy Zem and BPM actor Antoine Reinartz as a police chief and recent academy graduate in Northern France trying to solve the brutal murder of an old woman.

Matthias & Maxime — Xavier Dolan

Cannes raised Dolan — the Quebecois director has premiered five films at the festival, most recently winning the Grand Jury prize for It's Only the End of the World in 2016. After the English-language misfire that was The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Dolan returns to his low-budget Quebecois roots for his eighth feature, billed as another deeply personal melodrama in the vein of Mommy and Laurence Anyways with Dolan regulars Anne Dorval and Antoine-Olivier Pilon, as well as the director himself, who is back in front of the camera. If Cannes doesn't give Dolan a competition slot, he will likely take Matthias & Maxime elsewhere — to Venice or Toronto.

Jeanne — Bruno Dumont

Dumont is on track to return to the Croisette with Jeanne, a follow-up to his lauded musicalJeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, which premiered in Cannes' Directors' Fortnight section in 2017. Jeannette star Lise Leplat Prudhomme returns to reprise her role for the sequel, which Dumont adapted from second and third parts of Charles Peguy’s play The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc. This time, however, unlike the first's heavy-metal soundtrack, Dumont's new musical will be scored by 1980s French pop singer Christophe. Given the first film's enthusiastic reception, Dumont might make it into Un Certain Regard with the sequel, though a return to Directors' Fortnight would also suit.

Le Daim — Quentin Dupieux

Genre specialist Dupieux could return to Cannes for the first time since his well-received horror comedy Rubber premiered in Critics' Week in 2010 with this crime comedy. Le Dalm sees The Artiststar Jean Dujardin as a man obsessed with buying a new jacket who ends up losing all his savings and is plunged into a life of crime. But the genre elements, and Dupieux's reputation as a commercial director (as well as music-video helmer and electronic DJ), makes a Directors' Fortnight slot more likely than competition.

The Lighthouse — Robert Eggers

After his breakout hit The Witch, which became one of the biggest indie hits of 2016, there’s a lot of interest in what Eggers does next. A black-and-white fantasy horror movie starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe, The Lighthouse doesn’t yet have a release date, so it might not be primed for Cannes. And with A24 already having one horror pic that many assume is heading to the festival in the form of Sommar, this could be a wishful scream too far. But an out-of-competition slot, or maybe even Un Certain Regard, could be in the cards.

Guest of Honor — Atom Egoyan

The Oscar-nominated Canadian helmer has slipped somewhat in critical acclaim since his success with seminal 1990s titles Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. But Cannes still loves him, and it is a safe bet that Guest of Honor — a twisted psychodrama about a father and his 20-something daughter who wants to remain in jail for a sexual assault she didn't commit — will be a guest of honor on the 2019 Croisette and mark Egoyan's return to Cannes competition.

A Girl Missing — Koji Fukada

Fukada reunites with Mariko Tsutsui, star of the director's Un Certain Regard prize-winning Harmonium (2016), for this tale of a private nurse who become a subject when the daughter of the family she works for is kidnapped and the media reveal the kidnapper to be the nurse’s nephew. A competitition slot might be a reach, but a return to Un Certain Regard seems likely.

Pelican Blood — Katrin Gebbe

Gebbe divided the critics with her debut Nothing Bad Can Happen, which premiered in Un Certain Regard in 2013. But she has enough fans on the Croisette to make a return — to Un Certain Regard, if not in competition — with her follow-up, with features German star Nina Hoss playing a horse trainer who adopts a 5-year-old from Bulgaria only to discover the girl suffers from an attachment disorder which makes it impossible for her to form emotional connections with anyone.

Ad Astra — James Gray

Four of Gray’s past five films have bowed in competition in Cannes, and with Fox having set a release date of May 24, this sci-fi pic could make it five. Brad Pitt — who produces through his Plan B outfit — stars alongside Ruth Negga (last seen in Cannes with Loving), Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Kennedy in a story about an engineer who travels through the solar system to find his father, who left on a one-way mission to Neptune to seek out extra-terrestrial intelligence. 

Little Joe — Jessica Hausner


After three Un Certain Regard entries (LourdesHotelAmour Fou), Hausner would seem to have earned her place in Cannes competition, and her English-language debut Little Joe, the story of plant breeders (Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw) whose Cinnabar flower seems to alter the personalities of everyone who comes in contact with it, could be just the ticket.

The Dead Don't Die — Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch was on double directorial duty last time he was at Cannes, thanks to his 2016 drama Paterson and the Iggy Pop doc Gimme Danger. While typically little is known about his next movie beyond the instantly curious words “comedy zombie film,” The Dead Don’t Die could give Cannes its most impressive red carpet of the year, with a near-preposterous cast that reteams the filmmaker with Adam Driver (Paterson), Bill Murray (Broken Flowers), Chloe Sevigny (Broken Flowers), Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive) and Steve Buscemi (Mystery Train), alongside the likes of Selena Gomez, Danny Glover and Daniel Craig. Bill Murray in Cannes? Yes, please! An out-of-competition slot is almost guaranteed, though Cannes will likely want Jarmusch back in the running for the Palme d'Or.

Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo — Abdellatif Kechiche

Kechiche premiered the first feature in his planned Mektoub trilogy in Venice, but part two could see the director return to Cannes, where his Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d'Or in 2013. Kechiche, however, has long been a contentious figure in France — he infamously put up his Palme d'Or for sale to finance postproduction on his new film — so it is far from certain his Intermezzo will make it to Croisette.

The Truth — Hirokazu Kore-eda

Kore-eda's new film is all but certain to premiere in Cannes. After winning the Palme d'Or last year with Shoplifters, the Japanese director is posed to return to the Croisette with his first film shot outside Japan, a love letter to French actress Catherine Deneuve, who stars alongside Juliette Binoche in a mother-daughter drama. Ethan Hawke plays Binoche's American husband in the drama, which IFC Films has picked up for North America.

To the End of the Earth — Kiyoshi Kurosawa

This Japanese genre master has been a perpetual presence in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. His 2008 drama Tokyo Sonata won the section's jury prize, and he later took best director honors for his 2013 romance Journey to the Shore. Currently in postproduction, To the End of the Earth was short far afield from the Japanese archipelago: The film follows a young Japanese woman who finds her cautious and insular nature tested when she travels to Uzbekistan to shoot the latest episode of her travel variety show. Perhaps this could be the project to finally elevate Kurosawa into Cannes' main competition?

The True History of the Kelly Gang — Justin Kurzel

Having made a name for himself with his Cannes 2015 bowing take on Macbeth, Australian director Kurzel may have made a slight misstep with Assassin’s Creed. But he could redeem himself with critics with this adaptation of Peter Carey’s book, based on the life of Ned Kelly. George MacKay stars as the famed armor-wearing outlaw, with Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult and Charlie Hunnam also among the impressive cast lineup. This could be too mainstream for the main competition, but an out-of-competition slot — and the glitzy red carpet that comes with it — is a strong possibility.

Ema — Pablo Larrain

Pablo Larrain was a Directors' Fortnight regular with 2009's Tony Manero and No in 2012, but the success of El Club and A Fantastic Woman — both of which premiered in competition in Berlin — could help the Chilean filmmaker to his first appearance in Cannes' competition. Ema, an adoption-issue melodrama, sees Larrain return to his native country and reunite with No and Neruda star Gael Garcia Bernal.

Luz — Flora Lau

Hong Kong filmmaker Flora Lau could be returning to the Croisette with her second feature, helped by the draw of star Isabelle Huppert and the fact that Luz is a China-France co-production, so is certain to get a close look by Cannes' selection committee. But a sidebar slot — maybe Un Certain Regard — is a better bet than the competition.

Sorry We Missed You — Ken Loach

The idea of Cannes favorite Loach taking his next project anywhere else is almost unthinkable, especially after his last film, I, Daniel Blake, won him his second Palme d’Or and went on to spark something of a political debate about Britain’s welfare system that continues to this day. His latest film, again written by Paul Laverty and produced by Rebecca O’Brien, is likely to be just as hard-hitting, taking aim at the gig economy and the financial instability it brings. Expect Sorry We Missed You to raise the immediate ire of Britain’s right-wing politicians. 

Radegund — Terence Malick


Could Malick be heading to Cannes? Fest watchers have been predicting it each year since this project was first announced in 2016 (the first look appeared in 2017), but with a rumored 2019 release, this May now seems the most likely. A WWII drama about love, sacrifice and destiny, Radegund tells the story of an Austrian conscientious objector and stars August Diehl, Valeria Pachner, Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz (in the late actor’s final role). Given the opportunity, it’s unlikely Fremaux and company would turn down Malick and could mark his return since winning the Palme for Tree of Life in 2011. But then, given the director's track record, it could be another couple of years before the pic is ready for public consumption.

The King — David Michod

Michod's Shakespeare-inspired drama — a Netflix title — would certainly get plenty of flashbulbs popping. Timothee Chalamet stars as King Henry V in a dazzling ensemble cast that also includes Robert Pattinson, Lily-Rose Depp, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Sean Harris and Thomasin McKenzie. Get the earplugs ready — there's likely to be some screaming from the Croisette. That is, if Cannes lets Netflix join its party this year.

C'est Extra — Guillaume Nicloux

After several excursions to Berlin — with The EndThe Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq and The Nun — Nicloux returned to the Croisette last year with To the Ends of the World, which premiered in Directors' Fortnight. The French filmmaker's latest, which sees Gerard Depardieu and writer Michel Houellebecq taking a spa trip together, looks like perfect Cannes bait, if the festival doesn't blanch at the idea of having Depardieu on the red carpet if the actor is still under investigation for rape. Competition might attract too much attention, but Critics' Week could let C'est Extra in without major incident.

Manor House — Cristi Puiu

Puiu, whose The Death of Mr. Lazarescu won the Un Certain Regard's top prize back in 2005, could return to Cannes with this period drama based on a A Short Story of the Anti-Christ, an excerpt from the writings of 19th century Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, who was a friend and confident of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. A sidebar position — likely Un Certain Regard — is most likely.

The Whistlers — Cornelieu Porumboiu

Cannes prides itself on being the platform for the new Romanian cinema and, alongside Puiu's Manor House, Porumboiu's latest also looks like a lock, at least in a sidebar slot. The complicated plot follows a Romanian policeman who has to learn the whistling language of the Gomera people on the Canary Islands in order to help spring a criminal from jail and recover money to repay a violent mobster.

First Cow — Kelly Reichardt

Arguably the most hotly anticipated U.S. indie film this year is Reichardt's adaptation of Jonathan Raymond’s The Half-Life: A Novel. First Cow sees the slow cinema specialist take on a period drama set in 1820s Pacific Northwest involving a mismatched pair and a get-rich-quick scheme involving the first cow in the territory. But it's unclear whether Reichardt will be able to finish First Cow in time for Cannes as the film only started production in November. If it is ready, Un Certain Regard looks like the most likely landing spot.

Frankie — Ira Sachs

Sachs‘ first production outside North America follows three generations grappling with a life-changing experience over the course of a single day while on vacation in Portugal; Isabelle Huppert, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear, Jeremie Renier and Brendan Gleeson star. While Sachs is usually a safe bet for Toronto, the French backing behind Frankie — Said Ben Said's SBS Productions — and Euro-friendly cast could help the director to a Cannes slot, though likely in Un Certain Regard or Directors' Fortnight.

Uncut Gems — Josh and Benny Safdie

Adam Sandler stars in this feature, from the sibling directing team behind Good Time, as a jewelry store owner and dealer to the rich and famous who must find a way to pay his debts after his stock is taken from one of his top sellers and girlfriend. A24 has U.S. rights to the crime comedy, but with Netflix on board for international distribution, Cannes might hesitate to give Uncut Gems a competition slot. This screams out-of-competition.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire — Celine Sciamma

After the critical success of her first three features — Water LiliesTomboy and Girlhood — Sciamma might finally be ready for her Cannes competition debut with this period drama, an 18th-century love story about a reluctant bride who shares her first and last moments of freedom with the female painter commissioned to do her wedding portrait.

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese

Even if it weren’t for Netflix’s involvement, Cannes would erupt were it to land Scorsese’s $100 million, long-gestating all-star gangster thriller, reuniting his Goodfellas team of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci and throwing Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin in for good measure. But with the streamer’s growing presence at festivals falling afoul of international distributors and following Cannes’ famous anti-Netflix stance in 2018, The Irishman could prove to be one of the most controversial additions to the lineup. 

Wicked Games — Ulrich Seidl

Seidl, the Austrian master of the uncomfortable, returns to narrative filmmaking after his Paradise LoveFaith and Hope trilogy, reteaming with wife and screenwriter partner Veronika Franz on this tale of two adult brothers who are forced to confront their past when they return home to bury their mother. Seidl has had two films in Cannes competition before — 2007's Import Export and Paradise: Love in 2012. Wicked Games should make it a three-peat.

Waves — Trey Edward Shults

Schults made a major splash in Cannes with his low-budget debut Krisha, a Critics' Week entry in 2015. His follow-up, the crossover horror pic It Comes at Night, established the American director as one to watch. Waves, a romantic musical dramedy about two couples growing up and falling in love, stars Lucas Hedges, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie and Sterling K. Brown. This could be the film to launch Shults into the Cannes elite, though the festival might want to move him into Un Certain Regard first.

The Laundromat — Steven Soderbergh

Thirty years after he became the youngest director to win the Palme d’Or with Sex, Lies and Videotape, Soderbergh would be a very welcome addition on the Croisette in 2019 with a film that seems right up the fest’s alley. Starring an enviable cast of Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, The Laundromat is set to tell the story of how a group of journalists unearthed all 11.5 million files that would become the Panama Papers, showing how the world’s most powerful figures used the law firm Mossack Fonseca to hide their billions from the taxman. The film might be too commercial for the main competition, but an out-of-competition slot could be in the offing.

It Must Be Heaven — Elia Suleiman

It’s been 10 long years since Suleiman’s last feature — the Cannes-bowing The Time That Remains— and with the next film from the visionary Palestinian director reportedly now ready, it would appear perfectly timed for his return. In typical Suleiman style, he serves as the central character and narrator in this comedy of errors, a man who escapes from Palestine only to find that it’s always there, just behind him, constantly reminding him of where he’s come from.

All-Inclusive — Malgorzata Szumowska

Hot off winning Berlin's jury prize for her face-transplant comedy Mug last year, Poland's Szumowska has promised a return to her student roots with All-Inclusive. Little is known about the plot of the film, except that, according to the director, it will “only be about women” and is “very cool.” Plus, it's the world's first Poland-Morocco co-production. Sounds like a perfect fit for Un Certain Regard.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — Quentin Tarantino

A full quarter-century after he claimed the Palme d’Or steps for Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s return to the south of France would be a major splash for the festival. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie take the lead alongside Quentin regulars Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen in the Los Angeles-set ensemble drama in which several storylines play out against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s. Sony has set a July 26 release date, which ties it in very nicely for a Cannes debut. 

Sibyl — Justine Triet

Triet's sophomore film Victoria, which opened Cannes Critics' Week in 2016, marked her breakthrough on the international art house scene, so anticipation is high ahead of Sibyl, a dramedy about a jaded psychotherapist who returns to her first passion of becoming a writer. Triet shot the film in secret last summer and with a cast that includes Victoria star Virginie Efira, Adele Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel, Niels Schneider and Toni Erdmann actress Sandra Huller. It looks a shoe-in for a Cannes slot, if not, perhaps, in competition. 

Proxima — Alice Winocour

Winocour, who picked up best screenplay honors together with Deniz Gamze Erguven in Cannes for 2015’s Mustang, could finally crack the competition lineup with her latest feature. Her most ambitious film to date, Proxima stars Eva Green as an astronaut preparing to go on a one-year mission to the International Space Station, who much first endure a rigorous training period and separation from her 7-year-old daughter. Matt Dillon and German actors Sandra Huller and Lars Eidinger co-star. But it's unclear if the film, which only began shooting in January, will be done in time to make the Cannes cut.

Wendy — Benh Zeitlin

Benh Zeitlin‘s long-awaited follow-up to Beasts of the Southern Wild didn't make it to Sundance, raising expectations it would bow in Cannes. The film, set on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued and where two children from different worlds fight to maintain their grip on reality, promises to be one of the festival's hottest tickets, if it gets selected.

One Second — Zhang Yimou


Could Berlin's woe become Cannes' win? China's most acclaimed filmmaker faced the ignominy of having his self-described "love letter to cinema" yanked from the Berlin International Film Festival's main competition just days before its scheduled world premiere in February. The official explanation from China — parroted, rather spinelessly, by the Berlinale — improbably cited "technical reasons" for the sudden withdrawal, but most industry figures in Beijing believe the film's setting during China's politically sensitive Cultural Revolution period was to blame. Little information about the fate of the pic has since emerged, but perhaps a freshly censored version of the project might find its way to Cannes for a second stab at European festival glory? Stranger things have happened.

Where It Begins — Zhao Fei

Zhao Fei is making his directorial debut this year with the drama Where It Begins, but the Chinese industry veteran's past work will already be familiar to a whole generation of European festivalgoers fluent in Asian cinema. Best known as a cinematographer, Zhao shot such classics as Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Feng Xiaogang's Cell Phone (2003) and Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises (2007). Zhao's first feature as a director follows a group of former high school friends and rivals who are drawn together in the present day and forced to confront a series of scarring episodes from their school days in 1990s rural China. Thierry Fremaux has often said he wished he had more high-end Chinese titles to elevate at Cannes, so this buzzed-about project could prove enticing. Wildbunch is handling international sales on the film, which is currently in postproduction.  

An Easy Girl — Rebecca Zlotowski

After a series of dramas from Zlotowski focused on women in extraordinary situations — from Lea Seydoux and Anais Demoustier bonding over drugs and partying in her 2010 debut Dear Prudence to Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as a pair of 1930s psychic sisters in her 2016 English-language feature Planetarium — Zlotowski is lightening things up with her latest, described as a romantic comedy. It might be a difficult sell for competition, but An Easy Girl should easily make the cut for Un Certain Regard.

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