One of our favorite things at Cannes every year is the little, grubby, beautiful genre film that emerges, usually from one of the sidebars, that marks the emergence of an exciting new filmmaker. We’re thinking a film like “The Orphanage,” or “It Follows,” or ‘Green Room.” And this year, that film was Critics’ Week standout “Raw,” helmed by Julia Ducournau. Following a young vegetarian girl at vet school who delves into cannibalism, the film marks the first theatrical feature from 33-year-old Ducournau, whose short “Junior” was in the Critics’ Week selection five years ago, and who also helmed TV movie “Mange,” and it’s an utterly distinctive debut, one that shows “surprisingly sharp command, and more importantly, restraint, given the subject matter,” per our review. Focus Features snapped up the rights, and Ducournau was fought over by major agencies, so expect massive things from her in future.
The Duffer Brothers
We’re at an interesting time now, where writer/directors can make their name not necessarily with a breakout Sundance indie, but by creating and directing their own TV series. Sam Esmail did it last year with “Mr. Robot,” and now the Duffer Brothers are their latest to pull off the trick, with their Netflix sensation “Stranger Things.” The North Carolina natives sold a script to Warner Bros soon after they graduated Chapman University, and were allowed to direct the film too. The pic, contained horror-thriller “Hidden” starring Alexander Skarsgard and Andrea Riseborough, was shunted around the release schedule and only finally saw the light of day on video last year, but impressed M. Night Shyamalan, who hired them to write for his “Wayward Pines” series in its first season. In the meantime, their pitch for “Stranger Things” ended up with Shawn Levy’s production company ,and after dozens of turn-downs, was picked up by Netflix, becoming one of their most talked-about shows and making a bigger pop-culture impact than most blockbuster movies this year.
Deniz Gamze Erguven
If you’re looking for exciting new filmmakers in Cannes, the Directors’ Fortnight is almost always the place to be, and one of the best discoveries there of late is Turkish-born, France-based director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. The 38-year-old director trained at the French film school La Fémis, and befriended Alice Winocour at the Cannes Film Market in 2011. She appeared as an actress in Winocour’s debut “Augustine,” and together the two wrote “Mustang,” which became Erguven’s directorial debut. Telling the story of a five Turkish sisters kicking against their repressive family, it was a powerful, warm, and beautifully made film, something our review called “an insightful, engaging and often enraging perspective on the treatment of women living with a restrictive and regressive cultural environment.” It won Eguven an Oscar nomination and a Cesar for Best First Feature Film, and she’ll soon direct her English-language debut “Kings,” starring Halle Berry and Daniel Craig and set during the L.A. riots.
We didn’t unreservedly love “The Free World,” the directorial debut of “Restless” screenwriter Jason Lew, at Sundance this year, but it’s an ambitious and sincere film with a lot to like about it, including excellent lead performances from Boyd Holbrook and Elisabeth Moss. But the particular standout, according to Katie Walsh’s review, was cinematographer Bérénice Eveno, who helps make the film “a gorgeous creation, lovingly [and] luminously photographed.” Born in France but now based in L.A, Eveno trained at the American Film Institute and then served as an apprentice to Wally Pfister on “The Dark Knight Rises.” She’s shot a number of low-budget features since, including “Free The Nipple,” but “The Free World” is certainly her most high profile project to date, and we’re eagerly awaiting whatever she ends up shooting next.
It opened way back in February (and premiered all the way back at Cannes 2015), but if we see a better movie in 2016 than Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace Of The Serpent,” we’ll be remarkably surprised. The 35-year-old Colombian helmer made his directorial debut, “Wandering Shadows,” at the age of just 23: his follow-up, “The Wind Journeys,” screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2009, and both films were picked by Colombia to be their representative at the Oscars, though neither were nominated. But “Embrace Of The Serpent” made the cut — a remarkable, black-and-white travelogue through the Amazon in two timelines, a masterpiece of post-colonial cinema with an astonishing visual eye, it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, the first Colombian movie to achieve the feat. Guerra will direct his next film, a desert-set 1970s crime pic called “Birds Of A Passage,” in February, but he’s also planning a trip to Hollywood: he’s attached to dystopian thriller “The Detainee,” from the producers of “John Wick” and “Sicario.”