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Everything You Need to Know About the Movies at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival

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This year’s Cannes Film Festival had a fascinating line-up of independent films from all over the world, including 21 films that competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or prize and scores of other features and shorts in the rest of the sections and categories. Read on to find out about some notable films that took this year’s festival by storm.

Opening Film: Everybody Knows

The film that had the honor of opening the iconic festival on May 8th was the Spanish-language movie, Everybody Knows. It was directed by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and stars Penélope Cruz and her (real-life) husband Javier Bardem (if you’re having a hard time recollecting where you’ve seen him, simply remember the infamous hitman from No Country for Old Men). Farhadi had high expectations going into the festival, because he won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for directing Salesman.

The plot of his new psychological thriller follows Laura (Cruz), a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, who returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her Argentinian husband and children and meets up again with an old flame (Bardem). Of course, the audience’s anxiety starts to boil when the Laura’s husband goes missing. As she struggles to maintain a level-head, figures from her hometown and past complicate matters. The film is a tense examination of who can be trusted and who can’t, especially in the context of places typically regarded as “safe and sound.” There’s rumored to be a curse about the opening film for Cannes – that it typically flops – check out Everybody Knows and see if you think it reaffirmed or broke the curse!

Closing Film: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

It was a big surprise when Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was selected as the closing film for the festival, as it had been the subject of a legal battle not long before the event.

The storyline is based on the book Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. If you are not familiar with the work, you should be. It is considered by many critics to be the best literary work ever produced and, when you exclude religious texts, some allege it has sold more copies throughout all history than any other work (yes, even squashing Harry Potter’s sales). Essentially, the story is about an old foolish man who convinces himself that he is a knight in shining armor and he goes on one bumbling quest to another. One of the more iconic accounts is when he mistakes a windmill for a giant. Think of it as the original Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Jonathan Price (who assumed the role of the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones), plays the role of the old Spanish shoemaker who truly believes himself to be the real Don Quixote. He mistakes advertising executive Toby Grisoni, played by Adam Driver of Kylo Ren fame, for his squire Sancho Panza and the two set off on an adventure. It’s filled with witty satire, but is not afraid of venturing into the slapstick. Unfortunately, it seems this might be one of the strongest examples of the book being better than the movie: so far, the movie has only managed to swing a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But, if we’re honest, trying to make a movie do justice to one of the best works ever written is a tall order. 

Global Appeal: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Following Rogue One in 2016, Solo (from American director Ron Howard) is the second “stand-alone” movie in the Star Wars universe and is centered on the character of Han Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich. This film was shown in the Out-of-Competition section. After the success of Rogue One and the new trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi), many expected Solo to soar, but, unfortunately for Disney, the film has not had as strong of an opening. Which is surprising, because some thought an origin-story for Han Solo – arguably the most famous “no good, scruffy-looking” smuggler in the universe – would be something fans would want to see. It has gotten okay reviews, however, and others are hoping that interest picks up. But, the critics at Cannes are reported to have given director Ron Howard and main star Alden Ehrenreich a standing ovation.

If you’re curious, but want to know more before you commit to a movie ticket, here’s a spoiler-free plot synopsis: the story picks-up with a young Han Solo (in his mid-to-late twenties, perhaps) who has a chance to break out of the criminal underworld of his upbringing and save a love interest at the same time. Woody Harrelson, who plays the mentor of young Han, arrives on the scene and needs help for a heist. Perhaps even more notable, Donald Glover, who has been everywhere right now (from his Netflix standup special, to hosting SNL a few weeks back, to his provocative viral music video and song, “This is America” ), plays a young Lando Calrissian who tags along for the adventure.

Spotlight on Women

The leading directors of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival pledged to work towards gender parity in the cast and crew of films shown in this year’s festival, a charter which was signed at an event held jointly with the French ministry of culture and announced in the news.

At the beginning of the festival, 82 women in the film industry – actresses, writers, producers, directors – stood as a unified group on the steps leading into the primary festival hall as a visual representation and protest of the fact that only 82 female filmmakers have been invited as official competitors in Cannes’ entire history! Compare that to the fact that over 1,600 men have officially competed, and you can understand why these women protested.

Two films featured in the competition category that particularly highlight the role of women are 3 Faces (directed by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi) and Girls of the Sun (directed by French filmmaker Eva Husson).

3 Faces follows the journey of an actress (Behnaz Jafari) and a film director (Jafar Panahi) who go in search of a girl who has sent out a cry for help to escape her conservative family. Girls of the Sun tells the story of a group of brave women in Iraqi Kurdistan who form a battalion unit and go back to liberate their hometown from extremist oppression after an ISIS invasion.

These are just a handful of the many high-quality movies that were shown at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Get behind the scenes with talent and special guest interviews on international French TV and follow the festival’s official YouTube and Daily Motion channels for more recaps on the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

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