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15 African Diaspora-Interest Films That May Premiere At The Cannes Film Festival - Part 2

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 21, 2013 6:42 PM
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Still From Kristof Bilsen's 'White Elephant'

Continuing on with today's 5... if you missed the start of the series yesterday, read it HERE for the first 5 films on my list - including Twelve Years A Slave, Grisgris, Half Of A Yellow Sun, a tie between Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and The Butler, and finally Belle.

It was announced 9 days ago that Baz Luhrmann's fantastical take on The Great Gatsby, will open the 2013 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in May.

While we still have about 3 weeks before the festival unveils its full lineup (they usually do so in pieces, spread out over a short period of time), I thought I'd start to take a look at what African Diaspora films just might be selected to debut in competition, at the world's most prestigious film festival this year - films that we've been following on this site for the last year or 2, that have the strongest chances of being included in the festival's full lineup, once it's announced.

The 12-day festival runs from May 15 to 26, and S&A should be there this year. We were there in 2011 (Wendy covered it), we skipped last year, but I expect that we'll be there this year. Plans are already been discussed. So I certainly hope that this year's line-up, unlike recent previous years, includes a substantial representation of Diaspora films (relative to previous years), especially since there are a good number of titles that I think could be candidates.

Of course, I'm not on the selection committee, so this is all just conjecture on my part.

So without further ado, here's the second list of 5 films. I have a list of 15 (and counting), and will break them up into separate posts over the next few days.

Yesterday's first group were films that I think are the strongest candidates for this year to be selected for the main competition slate.

The below five may not be selected for the main competition slate, but could be for other selection categories.

6 - Nina: What I'm sure will be one of the most discussed films this year (assuming it's released in the USA this year) is director Cyntia Mort's Nina Simone project, starring Zoe Saldana in the title role. The film will tell the story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist, Nina Simone, including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson, played by David OyelowoMike Epps plays Richard Pryor. Despite all the images we've seen of Saldana as Simone, I really have absolutely no idea what to expect of this film. None! I'm not familiar with Cynthia Mort's work, and, although we read an early draft of the script (and reviewed it HERE), a lot may have changed since that draft. And even if nothing has changed, I'll need to see some footage from the film first, to get a better feel for what the director and cast have done with the story they set out to tell. The film was shot last fall, and has been in post-production since November, where it probably still is currently. But a Cannes debut - out of competition, unless it's just surprisingly above expectations - is a possibility. I'd be remiss if I didn't add that the French loved/love Nina, and she died there, her adopted homeland, in 2003.

7 - All Is By My Side: Another film based on the life of a real-life person, that's been burdened with controversy since it started production. Andre Benjamins's Jimi Hendrix project that didn't have approval of Jimi Hendrix's estate to use any of the musician's original songs, with reps for the estate accusing the filmmakers of moving forward with the project without their official permission. That didn't stop the production of the film, which was shot last summer in Ireland, and has been in post-production since then. The film will be free of all Hendrix-written classics like Purple Haze or The Wind Cries Mary, because of rights issues, and the producers actually set the film in "Hendrix's pre-fame era," as they said, and the music used will be covers of other musicians' songs Hendrix performed. It was reported by Rolling Stone magazine last year that producers were planning to take the film to the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. Obviously that didn't happen. Unless it was submitted, and rejected. A Cannes debut (likely out of competition) is possible, especially since it skipped Berlin, Rotterdam, SXSW, and Tribeca. The feature film is written and directed by John Ridley

8 - Faire L’Amour: Haitian director Djinn Carrénard's sophomore effort, Faire l’amour (or Making Love), will star the director, alongside Emma Nicolai and Laurette Lalande, from a screenplay he wrote. Djinn's first film, Donoma, was reportedly made for a few hundred dollars; we saw it, and we were enthralled by it! It screened at Cannes, but as part of a sidebar program, L'ACID. He impressed critics and audiences with it, around the world, wherever it screened, including here in the USA, and I expect his second feature to do the same, starting with a Cannes 2013 premiere. The film, budgeted at €2.7 million, or about $3.5 million, is a considerable jump (from a few hundred dollars for his first film, to a few million for his second). Let's see how that affects the end product. The film began production in the spring of last year, with shooting expected to take about nine weeks in Paris, so we can only assume it's complete by now, or close to completion. Carrénard actually wrote Faire L'Amour before he made Donoma, and says that it'll explore similar themes as that first film, which revolved around the dynamics of several, interconnected Paris couples. And also like Donoma, Faire L’Amour's cast comprises of mostly amateur, first-time actors, which Carrénard selected from acting workshops he conducted earlier last year.

9 - White Elephants, A Congo Trilogy: An intriguing new documentary (and the first I've mentioned in this series) we've been following for about year, when it was said to be in pre-production, from Belgian/Brit director Kristof Bilsen. It's a Congo (DRC)-set documentary feature which is an expansion of Bilsen's critically-acclaimed short film titled White Elephants, and centers on the Central Post-Office in Kinshasa, and its employees. "This grandiose relic of the colonial past has trapped its employees in a frozen time-warp from which they are planning their escape. From past to present, through the cracks in the walls, and leaks in the ceilings, we glimpse present-day Congo." The feature received lots of financial support from grant-giving institutions, and began shooting about a year ago. Last we checked, in the summer of 2012, a projected spring 2013 release date was said to eyed. And where else other than Cannes, in the spring, could the film premiere? We posted an early teaser of the film last year, which looks to now have been removed. As I recall of what I saw, it looked like a beautifully-composed and shot, meditative and even poetic piece of cinema; certainly not the pulsating vision of post-war DRC (Kinshasa specifically) that we saw in Djo Munga's Viva Riva!.

10 - Soleils: Co-directed in Burkina Faso by Olivier Delahaye's and Dani Kouyate, from a script by Delahaye, Soleils (which translates as Suns in English) tells the story of an old wise man who is entrusted with curing a young girl struck by amnesia. He takes her on a healing trip to Ouagadougou by way of the Cape, Berlin, Mali and Belgium. In their travels, which are full of surprises, they meet characters described as remarkable and luminous, or ignorant, with set ideas, as well as some fabulous creatures, and a text hidden deep in a continent that reveals a well kept secret: Africa has something to tell us. With a cast that includes Binda Ngazolo and Nina Melo, the project received a €350,000 advance on receipts from the French National Film and Moving Image Centre (CNC) last year - or about $430,000, to help with its budget. Principal photography began on June 4, with the film still in post-production, last we wrote about it in January, with plans for a debut this year. Some may be familiar with Kouyate's past work - specifically the visually enthralling Sia, The Dream Of The Python, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2001 FESPACO event, amongst other accolades. This is his 3rd film. His films have done well at French film festivals, in and out of France, but none has screened at the grand-daddy of them all - Cannes. Maybe Soleils will be his first.

That's it for today. The *maybe* five! Look for the next group of 5 films, which I'm even less confident will be selected for the festival this year, but I think still might have a chance to do so for any number of reasons.

Of course, there are always surprises; there are always those 2 or 3 films that we've never heard of (until the festival unveils its lineup). The S&A database is deep, but we do miss a few things here and there, and I'm looking forward to finding out what those *unknown* titles might be. It's always fun discovering new projects!

For part 3, click HERE.

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1 Comment

  • @Sequences_Sud | March 21, 2013 7:52 PMReply

    I'll likely say Faire l'Amour or Nina but hopefully Soleils too!

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