Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

25 Films We’re Excited To Watch at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

16 min read

Images Courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival

Following up a historic edition of a beloved festival is never easy. After a successful 75th Anniversary, riddled with cinematic delicacies and other miscellaneous celebrations of the moving image, the Film Festival programming committee is now faced with a dilemma. How does one continuously reinvent the wheel? To introduce critics, sales agents, and distributors from around the globe to new talent without compromising nor favouring new work from studio-mandated fare? As Hollywood continuously applies pressure to their commercial viability for the pleasurability of their shareholders; the demonising presence of recent box office portfolios have often favoured franchise-fare over original pieces of cinema. “A new franchise is born” is now viewed as a complement in the North American landscape. The success of Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves and The Super Mario Bros Movie are both recent examples of Hollywood continuously manipulating nostalgia for emotional catharsis. 

The future may be bleak for large-budgeted Hollywood productions. However, with the latest unraveling of the 76th lineup, there seems to be an amplification of trust with industry creatives and their large-budgeted work. Disney is attending the festival, with two blockbuster heavyweights that are bound to initiate discourse and plentiful merchandise sales. As Indiana Jones returns to the croisette for another round of dignified Lumière glory, Pixar's Elemental has settled for a historic closing night slot. Aside from the obvious large-budgeted elephants in the room, the festival has yet to (completely) compromise the integrity of its competition and sidebar slates. However, for Thierry Fremaux, there's a great and even borderline existential need to promote original works of cinema at Cannes. Each year, as an accredited journalist attending the festival on behalf of FilmHounds Magazine, I've had the pleasure of experiencing new original work from both newcomer talent and ageing auteurs. 

Over the past two years of attending the festival, I've learnt that the selection committee's mission to represent new talent from around the globe often translates to continuous international success. Return to Seoul, a film which premiered with grandiose applause when it competed in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics at the festival. Seoul would later receive a plentiful release in the United States and Canada, after premiering at other high-profile festivals such as Toronto, Chicago, and even NYFF. Aftersun, which competed in the , would later receive the high honour of a Best Actor nomination at the 95th Academy Awards. Whilst there is a clear disparity of Latin American productions in both the Director's Fortnight and the Official Competition slates this year — the festival committees involved are still looking at ample vantage points for new talent. In other terms, they're looking for the narrative of “the little film that could”.

Red Steps – Night © Mathilde Petit / FDC

The Director's Fortnight has completely re-transcribed their mission statement, returning to their foundational roots. After a hierarchical reshuffle, the programming at the Quinzaine des Cinéastes now favour new voices and uncompromising talent over big auteurs and Fremaux rejects. While festival buzz is a common marketing tactic for most North American selection-teams, the landscape in contrast this year seems to be shifting towards a more radical programming approach within the festival sidebars. These are magnificent changes, as the programming teams involved are taking bigger steps to offer screening space to new voices, at what is arguably the most high-profile cinema event in the world. 

However, this year's official selection isn't all perfect and utopian. After various tumultuous court hearings, Johnny Depp's return to the silver-screen will be met with glaring stares on opening night. Starring in Maïwenn's controversial Jeanne Du Barry; the production history behind the historical French epic is a bonafide mess at best. Labeled as a comeback role for the exiled abuser, Depp was reportedly absent from set on days of integral shooting. Depp demonstrated heavy resistance against his actor/director co-star. Maïwenn also recently admitted to assaulting a journalist, which adds more insult to injury to her film's history of misconduct. We also have Catherine Corsini's Le Retour to worry about — a film that is rightfully under fire due to a lack of compliance regarding an undisclosed scene involving a minor. Multiple crew members walked out of the set of Corsini's production due to aggressive, authoritarian and humiliating commands. Le Retour was a late selection to the Cannes Film Festival lineup. Endless debate and behind-the-curtain chaos between festival programmers and film distributors corresponded to frequent announcement delays.

Even with the two notable outliers mentioned, the festival still seems remarkably packed. From notable auteurs to newfound voices of world cinema, this year's selection offers another gateway, another portal, into the world of contemporary cinema. For the avid readers of FilmHounds magazine, the following is a detailed list of twenty-five films set to premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival that are currently awaiting international distribution. We've specifically highlighted films that feature a heavy absence from other published anticipation lists. Cinema is grand and arguably destructive — a literal mirror to our day-to-day lives. We hope that the following sample of twenty-five features offer a unique window into the distinguished portfolio of work present in this year's bold lineup. 

Anselm  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Special Screenings

Our Take: Adjacent to his competition premiere Perfect Days, Wim Wenders has another film premiering at the coveted Cannes Film Festival. After more than a decade of exploring the great depths of 3D technology, Wenders is now back to his non-fiction expertise with his latest documentary. Unlike his previous two narrative 3D features, Wenders is relishing within his ‘Pina' roots. Wenders shot this latest exploration of acclaimed German artist Anselm Kiefer over the span of two years; shooting all of it in 6K and 3D. We are personally very excited to check out Wenders' latest daring exploration of the arts with Anselm. 

Still Courtesy – Les Films Du Losange
Banel et Adama  – Dir. Ramata-Toulaye Sy
As part of the Official Selection – Competition

Our Take: After premiering award-winning short film work at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, Senegalese newcomer Ramata-Toulaye Sy joins this year's Official Competition with her feature debut. Debut films are often a rarity in the Cannes Competition. The last time a debut feature premiered in Competition at the Lumière was with Mati Diop's melancholic meditation Atlantics. Diop's debut was also a Senegalese production, which brought home the Grand Prix in 2019. We're personally hoping that Sy's delicate romantic drama amplifies her accomplished work into an international limelight — to ignite a symbolic torch that continues Cannes' mission to integrate new international voices into the mainstream.

Still Courtesy – Best Friend Forever
(The) Breaking Ice  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Anthony Chen returns to the silver screen this year with a second dose of festival glory with his latest melodrama entitled The Breaking Ice. We were favourable towards Chen's previous feature Drift, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance. Chen's empathetic and affecting editorial design amplified the aforementioned film's weaker thematic material. This time around, The Breaking Ice appears as a return to thematic form for the Singaporean director. Set in the icy scapes of Yanji, the film follows the intertwined relationships between three ambivalent twenty-somethings. We're personally keeping an eye on Chen's second feature of 2023 with amicable anticipation.

Still Courtesy – Rediance
Conann  – Dir.
As part of the Quinzaine des Cinéastes

Our Take: Betrand Mandico is arguably one of France's most provocative talents. With already two hallucinogenic feature films produced within his demented oeuvre, the uncompromising auteur is now premiering his third-feature at the Croisette. Connan, or alternatively known as She is Connan, is described as an unabashedly psychogenic rewrite of Queer-cinema. A genre-based reclamation that oozes with creativity and glorious analog cinematography— we're personally thrilled and a little bit scared to check out Mandico's latest descent into erotic lunacy.

Still Courtesy – UFO Distribution
(The) Delinquents – Dir. Rodrigo Moreno
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Who doesn't like a good heist flick? In Rodrigo Moreno's bank-robbing epic, the Argentine film follows the mundane routines of two bank employees, as they begin to plot their big escape. Through luck and respective failure, Moreno's three-hour epic captures the relentless journey of the impossible dream — to live free from the pressures of late-stage capitalism and to find love in the most unlikely of places. Wild-card entries such as The Delinquents are always welcomed in any Cannes lineup. We're personally betting that Moreno's extravagant drama will draw-in crowds of intrigued cinephiles upon its anticipated Un Certain Regard premiere.

Still Courtesy – Magnolia Pictures International
Eureka – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Cannes Premieres

Our Take: It's been exactly nine years since Lisandro Alonso premiered Jauja in the Un Certain Regard competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. After an elongated post-production period, Eureka marks the hotly-anticipated return of one Argentina's most-acclaimed talents. Eureka, in all of its 150-minute glory, is an enigma of sorts. A vague plot synopsis provided by the festival and limited production detail presents a cryptic portrait on the resilience of Indigenous populations. While we're not completely certain as to what Eureka has in store, we're personally looking forward to another visually-stunning journey that will traverse through time and space through the confines of Alonso's epic multi-continental scope.

Still Courtesy – Le Pacte
Four Daughters  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Competition

Our Take: Premiering alongside 's Youth (Spring) in this year's competition lineup, Kaouther Ben Hania's Four Daughters marks the historic return of non-fiction films into the competition lineup. The last time a non-fiction feature premiered at the Grand Lumière in Competition was with Jean Luc-Godard's The Image Book. Four Daughters is a particularly alluring project. Ben Hania utilises an intimate meta-text to explore a detailed excavation of memory and grief. The formations of the medium itself are used to bring back the presence of two missing daughters; to console a Tunisian matriarch in mourning after a catastrophic family disturbance. Hybrid-documentaries are often a rarity in our programmed culture of talking-heads entertainment, so we're already head over heels to watch Ben Hania's latest feature at the festival. 

Still Courtesy – Tanit Films
If Only I Could Hibernate  – Dir. Zoljargal Purevdash
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Already breaking international records as the first ever Mongolian film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, the realist narrative at the helm of If Only I Could Hibernate is equal parts devastating and urgent. Director Zoljargal Purevdash's debut feature showcases the plight, poverty, and determination of a young teenager's pursuit for academic excellence. More specifically, we're curious about the film's narrative endgame — as the teen and his family are forced to endure the frost-bitten winter with bare heating and resources for survival.

Still Courtesy – Urban Sales
In Flames  – Dir. Zarrar Kahn
As part of the Quinzaine des Cinéastes

Our Take: Utilising horror-conventions as an implicit ear-piece into the daily tribulations of patriarchal abuse, Zarrar Kahn's feature debut In Flames promises a relentless cinematic experience. Crossing the barrier between fantasy, horror, and domestic drama — In Flames switches between different genre modes to confront the psychological point-of-view of a young widower's attempts at self-reclamation. As a co-production between Canada and , we're greatly looking forward to this new genre-film with potentially invigorating bite.

Still Courtesy – XYZ Films
Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell – Dir. Thien An Pham
As part of the Quinzaine des Cinéastes

Our Take: Crisis of faith narratives are always intriguing on a conceptual plane; especially when the film's visual pastiche is matched with a distinct elegance and cinematic majesty. We're currently predicting that Pham Thien An's Inside the Cocoon Shell will bring forward a new voice in World Cinema at the festival. The Vietnamese production centers around a young man on a spiritual journey, as he brings home the body of his sister in-law back to the countryside. Self-contained with atmospheric landscapes and a daunting three-hour runtime, we're hoping that this religious epic will offer something new and enlightening to Cannes attendees. 

Still Courtesy – Cercamon World Sales
Kennedy  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Out of Competition (Midnight Screenings)

Our Take: Centered around an insomniac ex-cop seeking justice after faking his own death, Anurag Kashyap's Kennedy is one of the most hotly anticipated midnight premieres at this year's festival. The genre-picture is currently India's sole feature-film selected in this year's Official Selection. Kennedy marks the great return of Kashyap's work at the Croisette, after premiering Ugly (2013) at the Director's Fortnight. Crime, corruption, and the pursuit of self-absolution are at the vanguard of Kashyap's latest genre tribute.

Still Courtesy – Zee Studios
Lost Country  – Dir. Vladimir Perišić
As part of the Semaine de La Critique

Our Take: Set against the backdrop of student demonstrations against the Milosevic regime in the year 1996, the latest film from Serbian director Vladimir Perišić is amplified by a remarkable premise. A teenager is forced to choose between his own mother or his cherished political beliefs. His maternal role-model is an accomplice to his own government's election fraud. A crisis of blood-connections arises within the narrative's intergenerational conflicts. With a 16mm pastiche to compliment the 90's period decor, we're personally excited to see Perišić's Lost Country in complex motion.

Still Courtesy – Memento International
(The) Nature of Love  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Monia Chokri is already three films deep into her established Quebecois filmography. With her latest feature entitled The Nature of Love, the established Canuck filmmaker returns to the Un Certain Regard sidebar after her award-winning success with A Brother's Love. Chokri's compassionate and sensual direction is an already distinguished trademark of her filmography. Her films tend to play with the conventions of the rom-com genre; always finding applicable subversions in her tales of toxic masculinity, power, and coming-of-age growing pains. Chokri's latest genre-gem infuses detailed meditations on class and wealth — in an infidelity comedy of entrepreneurial errors.

Still Courtesy – MK2 Films
(The) New Boy  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: After garnering the coveted Camera D'Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, Warwick Thornton returns to the Un Certain Regard competition with a second round of Croisette victory. His latest film, set in the 1940's, is described as a faith-based drama which tackles themes of spirituality and assimilation. Academy-Award winner is rumoured to play a significant role in Thornton's period-drama. Samson and Delilah and Sweet Country are both widely recognised as contemporary classics; as Thornton continuously expands the canon of new Australian . We're anticipating that The New Boy will make a major splash at Cannes this month.

Still Courtesy – Dirty Films
Only the River Flows  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Chinese director Wei Shujun returns to the Cannes Film Festival for the third time with his latest feature entitled Only the River Flows. We were big fans of his previous feature Ripples of Life; a film which features a relentlessly accurate depiction of occupational turmoil nestled within a bickering film-set. Shujun is finally departing from his familiar meta-textual groundwork this time around, as Only the River Flows' thematic focus is no longer rooted in his pre-established autobiographical provocations. Adapted from the short novel ‘Mistakes By The River' by acclaimed writer Yu Hua, Shujun's introspective crime-drama promises plenty of thrills and genre chills with a distinct 90s period-setting at its core. 

Still Courtesy – MK2
Pictures of Ghosts  – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Special Screenings

Our Take: After premiering two award-winners within the festival's Main Competition with Bacurau and Aquarius, Brazilian auteur Kleber Mendonça Filho returns to the festival with his latest project. Focusing on the urban landscapes of Recife and the absent movie palaces which once prevailed in the area; Filho documents the Brazilian coastal capital with archived photographs, film clips, and other miscellaneous documents. We're very curious about the metatextual subject matter of Pictures of Ghosts. Filho's work is consistently political, as his filmography also has a tendency to be simultaneously personal. 

Still Courtesy – Cinemascopio Productions
(The) Pot-Au-Feu – Dir.
As part of the Official Selection – Competition

Our Take: Described as a culinary feast for the heart and soul, Trần Anh Hùng returns to the Croisette after a daunting hiatus. For those unfamiliar with Hùng's body of work, the Vietnamese auteur is best known for winning the Camera D'Or for his Academy-Award nominated debut The Scent of Green Papaya. This latest feature stars two of the most talented French actors working in the industry. and starring together in a romantic drama is already a dream movie in our books. Gastronomy, romance, and exquisite period-decor take hold of this promising Palme D'Or nominee.

Still Courtesy – Gaumont
Project Silence  – Dir. Tae-gon Kim
As part of the Official Selection – Out of Competition (Midnight Screenings)

Our Take: Described as the birth of a new disaster movie by its own production company in a recent press release, we are particularly spooked and allured by Project Silence. Set on a foggy bridge where a mysterious military experiment is accidentally let-loose, the latest blockbuster from continues their recent chain of perfect popcorn fare. With a mortifying premise of monstrous proportions, we're looking forward to an engaged midnight premiere at the Croisette for this new South Korean genre-piece.

Still Courtesy – CJ Entertainment
Riddle of Fire – Dir. Weston Razooli
As part of the Quinzaine des Cinéastes

Our Take: Fantasy gifts and other elvish artefacts are at the spotlight of Weston Razooli's feature debut. Known for his charming short films which delightfully pay homage to the genre cinema of old, Riddle of Fire marks the beginning of a promising career for the young American filmmaker. Described by the Director's Fortnight programming team as a cinematic mish-match of The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — we are personally hooked by Razooli's enigmatic & deeply creative premise. 

Still Courtesy – Mister Smith Entertainment
Robot Dreams – Dir. Pablo Berger
As part of the Official Selection – Special Screenings

Our Take: Animated films are a rarity at the festival. Most of the time, they're sidelined for the attention of buzzy live-action fare. However, contrary to popular belief, the animated features which are selected as part of the festival's lineup are often-times extraordinary pieces of art which exemplify the necessity for their respective medium. We were admirers of Little Nicholas – Happy as Can Be; an animated feature which made headlines at last year's 75th edition. Revolving around the caring relationship of a dog and his robot friend, Pablo Berger's Robot Dreams plays with the conventions of a silent movie. The film's overlying conflict? The devastating separation of two friends amidst Long Island memories and forgotten experiences.

Still Courtesy – Wild Bunch
Salem  – Dir. Jean-Bernard Marlin
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Returning to the Croisette after his debut feature Shéhérazade ignited enthusiastic raves at the Semaine De La Critique; Jean-Bernard Marlin's sophomore feature Salem promises another attempt at lightning in the bottle for the young French director. Inverting expectations with a supernatural twist — Marlin's chronicle of forbidden love, gangs and curses is mixed within an intriguing crock-pot of violent conflicts. Based on the film's classical narrative approach, we're looking forward to a film that bravely flirts with genre conventions.

Still Courtesy – Ad Vitam
Sleep  – Dir. Jason Yu
As part of the Semaine de La Critique

Our Take: Over the past few years, the Semaine De La Critique has been a welcoming home to new forms of genre cinema. Many cheered alongside the gonzo wackiness of Diamantino and the sly horror formations of It Follows and Vivarium. This year, South Korea takes centerstage with Jason Yu's Sleep. Parenthood, questionable sleepwalking, and restless nights of familiar anxiety are in the limelight of this newfound discovery. Whilst Sleep is Jason Yu's debut feature, the young director actually worked as an assistant director on Bong Joon-Ho's Okja. Based on the alluring premise and frightening promotional stills alone, his debut feature is bound to spook various festival attendees with another contemporary horror classic waiting to emerge from the Miramar theatre. 

Still Courtesy – Lotte Entertainment
The Sweet East – Dir.
As part of the Quinzaine des Cinéastes

Our Take: The name Sean Price Williams might ring a bell for some die-hard fans of recent American independent cinema. Last seen on the Croisette last year as the DOP on Owen Kline's sleeper-hit Funny Pages, Williams returns to the sun-stroked beaches of Cannes with his director-chair in hand. The Sweet East follows a high school senior who embarks on an elliptical journey through Washington, DC. Also worthy of note, the film is written by Nick Pinkerton — an acclaimed film critic known for his artistic contributions within larger publishing hubs such as Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound Magazine, Film Comment, and Art Forum.

Still Courtesy – The Match Factory
Terrestrial Verses – Dir. Ali Asgari & Alireza Khatamik
As part of the Official Selection – Un Certain Regard

Our Take: Highly political works are no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. When scrolling through the Un Certain Regard selection, our eyes were immediately drawn to Terrestrial Verses. A series of vignettes tackling conversations on state authority, censorship, and human rights in are at the forefront of the film. Each of the stories presented are strung together in an enlightening tapestry of intertwined conflicts. Thematically speaking, Terrestrial Verses promises a strong work of cinematic avocation on the current social-political divide between state and the Iranian commonwealth.

Still Courtesy – Films Boutique
Youth (Spring) – Dir. Wang Bing
As part of the Official Selection – Competition

Our Take: One of our most anticipated films featured in the Cannes Competition lineup is Wang Bing's three hour and thirty minute non-fiction epic entitled Youth (Spring). Covering the Shanghai-based worker district of Liming, the film follows a group of young people as they find solace in their place of work, unsanitary dormitories, and claustrophobic studios. Confirmed by Pyramide International as the first film in an extended three-part trilogy, Youth (Spring) offers another highly-observational non-fiction endeavour from one of China's most promising auteurs.

Still Courtesy – Pyramide International

The 76th Cannes Film Festival runs from May 16th – May 27th