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Films By Abderrahmane Sissako & Philippe Lacôte Are Cannes 2014 Official Selections (See The Full List)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
April 17, 2014 9:15 AM
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Still from the set of Abderrahmane Sissako's TIMBUKTU - Photo credit: Arnaud Contreras

Overall African Diaspora participation at the annual Cannes Film Festival, the world's most *prestigious*, is usually quite low, as I noted in my predictions piece yesterday; So, despite my list of 10+ potentials, I'm sadly never expecting to find more than 2 or 3 Diaspora titles (shorts and features) in the festival's full lineup - in competition, out of competition, etc - which only reemphasizes the very necessary role that black film festivals around the globe, play. The majority of the films we cover on this blog would likely never participate on the film festival circuit, if it weren't for black film festivals. Granted, only a few would be able to compete on the grandest cinema stage of all, but even those titles often are overlooked, if only in favor of the familiar.

And digging through this morning's announcement of this year's full Official Selection lineup for the 67th edition of the festival, which takes place from May 14-24, that trend looks to continues. Although lineup revelations in other program categories are still to come, so the below list doesn't tell the entire story.

Of most interest to this blog (given its stated mission) is Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, whose latest feature, Timbuktu, has been selected to screen In Competition at this year's event. 

His 5th solo directorial effort, Timbuktu was inspired by the real-life story of the 2012 stoning of a young unmarried couple, by Islamists, in a Northern Mali called Aguelhok. Their crime? They weren't officially married, and thus, in the eyes of their executioners, were committing a crime against divine law. That summer, the couple was brought to the center of the town, placed in holes in the ground, and stoned to death in front of hundreds of watchers - a horribly tragic incident that drew international media attention, and motivated at least one filmmaker to address on film.

"Aguelhok is neither Damascus nor Teheran," Sissako said in a pre-production statement over a year ago, adding that, "and in no way am I looking to over-emotionalize these events for the purposes of a moving film. What I do want to do is bear witness as a filmmaker. Because I will never be able to say I didn't know. And because of what I know now, I must tell this story - in the hope that no child may ever have to learn this same lesson in the future. That their parents could die, simply because they love each other."

Sissako is certainly no stranger to Cannes. Along with the late Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé, Idrissa Ouedraogo and Djibril Diop Mambety, he's one of the few filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy real and rooted international reach. His 2002 film, Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono), was screened at the Cannes Film Festival that year, as an official selection in the Un Certain Regard program, and went on to win the FIPRESCI Prize. His 2007 film Bamako, also received much international attention, including a César Award nomination (France's equivalent of the Academy Award) for its star Aïssa Maïga, as well as a Lumiere Award for Best French-Language Film, which it won.

Also of interest to us here at S&A is Côte d'Ivoire native Philippe Lacôte's feature film debut, Run, which was one of 15 projects selected for the Cannes L’Atelier in 2012 - an initiative which runs during the Cannes Film Festival aimed at finding financing for projects by upcoming directors that are in an advanced state of development. 

I should note that it was one of the 10 films on my predictions list post yesterday.

The synopsis reads: 

Run is running away… He has just killed his country’s prime minister. To escape, he has taken on the face and clothes of a madman, wandering throughout the town for months. Run speaks of his “transformation into a madman.” He tells the tale of his chaotic journey, like that of the Ivory Coast, by deliberately placing himself beyond the edge of reason. His life returns to him in flashes: his childhood with Master Tourou, when he dreamt of becoming a rainmaker; his incredible adventures with Greedy Gladys, and his past in the militia as a Young Patriot. Run has not chosen all of these lives. He has stumbled into them, escaping from one life to another. This is why he is called “Run.” 

The film's starring cast includes Isaach de Bankole (likely the most familiar to American audiences; he recently starred in Andrew Dosunmu's Mother Of George), Abdoul Karim Konate (he starred in Bamba Souleymane's Burn It Up Djassa) and Rasmane Ouedraogo (the veteran featured in films like Ousmane Sembene's Moolaadé). 

Run was selected to screen in the Un Certain Regard sidebar of the festival - a program created to recognize young, promising talent and to encourage innovative and daring storytelling on film. At the end of the festival, one of the films from the category will be honored with a grant to aid in its distribution in France.

The fact that it was selected for the Cannes L'Atelier film financing summit 2 years ago, made it an all-too obvious pick as I came up with my predictions list.

By the way, a short film by director Lacôte is currently traveling with the African Metropolis initiative, which features 7 African directors, each exploring their own "African Metropolis" on film. This should give Stateside audiences a first glimpse at the filmmaker's work, while we wait for his feature debut, Run, to reach our shores. The African Metropolis series of shorts will next screen at the Seattle International Film Festival next month, for those of you in that area.

That's it for Diaspora films in the festival's initial Official Selection. Although there are announcements to come in other program categories (Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week, for example), so there might be other titles on my predictions list (and not on my predictions list) that will premiere at the festival this year. When those revelations are made in coming days, I will have them for you here on S&A.

In the meantime, see below for the Cannes 2014 Official Selections:

Opening Film:
Grace of Monaco, dir. Olivier Dahan

In Competition:
Adieu au Langage, dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Captives, dir. Atom Egoyan
Foxcatcher, dir. Bennett Miller
The Homesman, dir. Tommy Lee Jones
Jimmy's Hall, dir. Ken Loach
Leviathan, dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev
Maps to the Stars, dir. David Cronenberg
Le Meraviglie, dir. Alice Rohrwacher
Mommy, dir. Xavier Dolan
Mr. Turner, dir. Mike Leigh
Saint Laurent, dir. Bertrand Bonello

Sils Maria, dir. Olivier Assayas

Still the Water, dir. Naomi Kawase
The Search, dir. Michel Hazanavicius
Timbukto, dir. Abderrahmane Sissako
Two Days, One Night, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Wild Tales, dir. Damian Szifron
Winter Sleep, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Out of Competition:
Coming Home, dir. Zhang Yimou
How to Train Your Dragon 2, dir. Dean Deblois

Midnight Screening:
The Rover, dir. David Michôd
The Salvation, dir. Kristian Levring
The Target, dir. Chang

Special Screening:
Caricaturistes, dir. Stephanie Valloata
Eau Argentee, dir. Mohammed Ossama
Les Ponts de Sarejevo, dir. Various
Maidan, dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Red Army, dir. Polsky Gabe

Un Certain Regard:
Amour Fou, dir. Jessica Hausner
The Blue Room, dir. Mathieu Almaric
Bird People, dir. Pascale Ferran
Charlie's Country, dir. Rold De Heer
Dohee Ya, dir. July Jung

Eleanor Rigby, dir. Ned Benson
Fantasia, dir. Wang Chao
Harcheck Mi Headro, dir. Keren Yedeya
Hermosa Juventud, dir. Jaime Rosales
Jauja, dir. Lisandro Alonso
Incompresa, dir. Asia Argento
Lost River, dir. Ryan Gosling
Party Girl, dir. Amachoukeli, Burger & Theis
Run, dir. Phillipe Lacote
Salt of the Earth, dir. Juliano Ribiero Salgado, Wim Wenders
Snow in Paradise, dir. Andrew Hulme
Titli, dir. Kanu Behl
Turist, dir. Ruben Ostlund
Xenia, dir. Panos Koutras

The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. 

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