Cannes Contenders Part Two: Wenders, Aïnouz, Green & More Enter The Chat As Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Pic Exits Stage Left

Because a list is never done and because we were inspired to dig that bit further, we have a few more updates on potential Cannes contenders this year.

Below is Part Two of our selection of movies we hear are in the conversation. You can read about our first wave of potentials here, including Scorsese, Indiana Jones 5 and Johnny Depp’s comeback movie.

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Among anticipated films it has become clear to us in recent days are unlikely to debut are Kirill Serebrennikov’s Limonov, Sean Durkin’s Iron Claw, and Kate Winslet’s Lee Miller biopic Lee.

Perhaps most notably, we can confirm that Hayao Miyazaki’s animation How Do You Live? will not be heading to the Croisette. There had been hope the filmmaker’s first movie in a decade could grace the festival and conversations were had about that possibility but as first reported by Paris Match over the weekend, our sources have confirmed it will debut to Japanese audiences in July.

Last year there was a frisson of excitement before the festival that David Lynch may be about to drop a new project into the Cannes mix. Nothing came of it. Likewise this year, we’ve heard nothing substantial about a new Lynch even if there remain whispers within the director’s considerable online fan groups that there may be something in the works.

Wim Wenders Projects
We hear that German great Wim Wenders may be in the Cannes mix this year but with what remains to be seen. Wenders traveled East last year to make ‘art project’ The Tokyo Toilet. The film stars Japanese actor Kôji Yakusho (Babel) and profiles a series of high-end public toilets in Shibuya, Tokyo. We understand the filmmaker has another even more secretive project that could entice the festival. Wenders has debuted a film on the Croisette in five different decades, chaired the official competition, and taken home five awards, including the Jury Prize and Best Director.

Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz has mounted his starriest production yet with historical drama Firebrand. The pic follows the short-lived marriage between notorious English King Henry VIII and his sixth and final bride Catherine Parr. As Deadline reported last year, the film stars Alicia Vikander and Jude Law, who portray the royal lovers alongside Sam Riley (Maleficent) and Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan). A Cannes debut remains on the cards, with the film set to be ready in time, and would mark Aïnouz’s sixth debut on the Croisette.

The Royal Hotel
Australian filmmaker Kitty Green has reteamed with her Assistant star Julia Garner for this social thriller. Inspired by true events, the pic follows two best friends who decide to get jobs at a sketchy pub after they run out of money while backpacking across the Australian Outback. The project will be ready for Cannes consideration and would be a hot property for A-list festivals following the acclaim for The Assistant. Neon, which has scored the last three Palme d’Or winners, has already picked up North American rights.

Lost In The Night
Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante has shared very few details about his next film, Lost In The Night. The project popped up last October at the European Work in Progress sessions, winning a post-production cash award. We hear post-production is winding down and the team hope it’ll be ready for Cannes. No plot details have been shared, but The Match Factory is on board with Mexico’s Tres Tunas and the Dutch-based Lemming Film. Escalante is a regular on the A-list festival circuit and picked up the best director award at Cannes in 2013 for Heli and at Venice in 2016 for The Untamed.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying
It’s not trodden by many but the Sundance to Cannes route is a regular thing. It happened twice last year with doc All That Breathes and Jesse Eisenberg’s When You Have Finished Saving The World. Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, Jim Mickle’s Cold In July and further back Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets are among notable examples of films to debut in U.S. before Cannes berths. There is hope this could be the case for Rachel Lambert’s Sundance drama, starring and produced by Daisy Ridley. The Stars Wars actress plays a socially awkward, death-obsessed office worker who is brought out of her shell by a colleague.


Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu has launched four of his eight features in Cannes, playing in Competition with Sieranevada in 2016 and winning the Un Certain Regard Award in 2005 for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. Puiu’s latest project is a “dramatic comedy” running 2 hours and 40 minutes. The story will follow “the wanderings of a bunch of errant souls stuck at the crossroads of history.”

Housekeeping For Beginners
Anamaria Marinca stars as a woman who suddenly finds herself responsible for her late partner’s daughters in this drama set against a bohemian LGBT community in North Macedonia. Australian-Macedonian director Goran Stoleveski’s star has been rising ever since Focus Features acquired his debut You Won’t Be Alone and second film Of An Age. Stoleveski does not yet have a Cannes pedigree but Marinca was the lead actress in Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, while producers include Warsaw-based Madants which previously brought Lamb and Pamfir to the festival.

Above The Dust
There is good buzz around Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai’s new film. Billed as the second project in a trilogy exploring the impact of China’s rapid modernization on its rural populations, the drama follows three generations of the same family as they navigate the shift from tradition to industrialization. Wang was previously in Cannes with Palme d’Or contenders Chongqing Blues (2010) and Shanghai Dreams (2005), which won the Jury Prize.

In the middle of a heat wave, an ominous cloud appears and with it, a lethal acid rain. A separated family will have to come together to escape this plague ravaging the world. Guillaume Canet and Laetitia Dosch lead cast in this French-language Pathé charge from director Just Philippot, whose Cannes Critics’ Week 2020 Label thriller The Swarm was bought by Netflix. The short Acid is based on was nominated for a Cesar.

Kyiv-born director Maryna Vroda won a Cannes Palme d’Or for her short film Cross in 2011 and the festival has been monitoring her progress ever since. Now living in exile in Berlin, having fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion, Vroda has completed her first feature against the odds. Set against Ukrainian winter landscapes, vanishing villages and post-Soviet society, the striking film follows a man who returns home from the city to care for his dying mother.

Kalak marks Swedish director and screenwriter Isabella Eklöf’s second film after Sundance-premiered crime drama Holiday. Eklöf also took directing credits on M. Night Shyamalan-led Apple TV+ series Servant and HBO’s Industry and was a co-writer on Ali Abbasi’s Oscar-nominated Un Certain Regard 2018 winner Border. Emil Johnsen stars as a nurse who is working in Nuuk, Greenland. His sense of being an outsider forces him to confront the demons of being sexually abused by his father as a teenager. We hear good things.

Behind The Mountain (aka Floating In A Vacuum)
Tunisian director Mohamed Ben Attia broke out internationally with Hedi which won Best First Film at the Berlinale in 2016. Set in the wake of Tunisia’s 2010-11 Jasmine Revolution, it followed a young man who went goes through his own personal liberation. Ben Attia’s second film Dear Son played in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2018 and we think there’s a chance his third film, freshly retitled Behind The Mountain, will also debut somewhere on the Croisette this year. The film reunites Ben Attia with Hedi star Majd Mastoura. He plays a man recently released from jail for vandalizing his place of work who takes take his son to the mountains to show him an amazing discovery.

Swimming Home
Justin Anderson makes his directorial feature debut on this adaptation of Deborah Levy’s Man Booker Prize-nominated book. The dark comedy, which stars Christopher Abbott, Mackenzie Davis, Ariane Labed and Nadine Labaki, follows a troubled married couple and their teenage daughter whose vacation is thrown into disarray when they find a naked stranger floating in the pool of their villa.

L’Été Dernier
Hopes are high that French arch provocateur Catherine Breillat will shake Cannes this year with her first film in a decade. Deadline understands the filmmaker — who has had three features previously at the festival — is racing to complete post-production in time for an eleventh-hour screening by the selection committee. Breillat’s last film, the 2013 drama Abuse Of Weakness starring Isabelle Huppert, was based on her own experiences at the hands of a con artist. L’Été Dernier is an adaptation of Danish Sundance prize winner Queen of Hearts. Léa Drucker stars as a lawyer, specialized in defending young victims of abuse, who embarks on a sexual relationship with her 17-year-old teenage stepson, played by newcomer Samuel Kircher.

L'été dernier
L’été dernier

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