The Indian Magic At Cannes
For the past 25 years, the world has not had the opportunity to see any Indian film at Cannes in the Competition section
On Thursday, April 12th, Thierry Fremaux, the director of Festival de Cannes unveiled his festival's 71st official selection, which includes new films by Jean-Luc Godard, Spike Lee, David Robert Mitchell and Jafar Panahi. As the world of cinema waited more for the likely omissions than for its inclusions at the end it became clear – there was no Indian film among the 18 films playing in competition - the most exclusive section of the festival.
In 1994 Shaji Karun got the news his film ‘Swaham’ had been selected for Cannes that year. Using landline phones I sought him out in Kerala to congratulate him and interview him for Screen International. For the past 25 years, the world has not had the opportunity to see any Indian film at Cannes in the Competition section. It also pains film enthusiast that India, one of the foremost producers of films in the world, is yet to win ‘Palm d’Or’, the top prize at the festival of Cannes.
Yet Cannes in the year 2018 promises to be different.
Nandita Das, a former jury member at Cannes is now premiering her latest film ‘Manto’, starring Nawazuddin and Rasika Duggal in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ sidebar of the festival. This is India’s only entry into the official selection of Festival of Cannes this year and Nawazuddin, a Cannes favorite, is making his ninth trip to the world’s premiere festival.
For the past few decades, the Marche du Film – the film market has remained active and open for Indian buyers, sellers, producers, and distributors. Every year a fairly strong delegation of Indian filmmakers, critics, business magnets, government officials and diplomats makes it to Cannes for promoting Indian cinema globally. Though the government-backed National Film Development Corporation did a fabulous job for years, both the industry trade organizations – FICCI and CII have made significant contributions to the image of Indian cinema in international waters. A lot of films from India will be publicized, screened and even premiered during the festival at the market where screens can be booked for a price but they are not classified ‘official selections’ and have no ‘red carpet’ screenings at Cannes. There are of course many Indian celebrities who usually join their global counterparts at Cannes every year not to see films but to be seen.
For the world’s premier film extravaganza, the ongoing battle with Netflix is dominating the headlines. The festival rules regarding required theatrical distribution in France have made it impossible for OTT platforms to officially enter their films in Cannes. Orson Welles' unfinished but now assembled by Netflix, ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ has suffered on this account. Nevertheless, excitement is building up for hidden gems that will hit the silver screen on the French Riviera and Lucasfilm has announced that “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which depicts Solo’s life before the events of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” would have its premiere at the festival before opening in France on May 23 and in the United States two days later. The festival will kick off with Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s ‘Everybody Knows’ starring real life husband and wife Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The magic of Cannes will unfold from 8-19 May this summer with Australian actor Cate Blanchette as the President of the Jury.
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