David Jenkins


20 films we’d like to see at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

Could Pedro Almodòvar, the Dardennes brothers and Nicolas Winding Refn be in contention for the Palme d’Or this year?

As the years go by, it seems like the window between the actual Oscars ceremony and when people start talking about the Oscars gets wider and wider. So, with the 2016 Academy Awards little more than fading glint in our smudged rear-view, we thought we’d look ahead to some of the hotly-anticipated movies which could be set to compete at the next major event on the docket: the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. What follows is an idealised version of the official competition.

1. Julieta by Pedro Almodòvar

Spanish director Pedro Almodòvar has won a fair few major awards in his time, but the one that still eludes him is the top honour at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or. He’s won Best Director (for Talk To Her in 2002) and Best Screenplay (for Volver in 2006), but he’s never quite managed to snag the big one. As much as you can pin any hope on a trailer, his new one, Julieta, looks suspiciously like a return to his melodrama heyday of the late ’90s/early ’00s. The film opens in Spain a month before the festival, so we should get an inkling of its awards prospects pretty soon.

2. The Unknown Girl by the Dardenne brothers

As sure as eggs is eggs, the new film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will receive its official world premiere in competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Put down a bet and bill us if we’re wrong. To add excitement to this utterly non-surprising certainty, the brothers are extending their run of working with name actors (Cécile de France in The Kid with the Bike; Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night) and are teaming up with French firecracker Adèle Haenel.

3. Sierra-Nevada by Cristi Puiu

Romanian maverick Christi Puiu delivered a brilliant curveball in 2010 with his three-hour thriller, Aurora, and we’re extremely excited for his return to the movie fray. Where Aurora barely contained a line of dialogue, his new one, Sierra-Nevada, looks to take the opposite tack, centring around a family gathering on the anniversary of a patriarch’s recent death, resulting in a whole lot of chatter.

4. Zama by Lucrecia Martel

It should be considered a scandal that it has been nearly eight years since Argentine director Lucrecia Martel has released a film – and that film would be 2008’s masterpiece, The Headless Woman. This new one is based on the most famous novel by author Antonio di Benedetto which, incidentally, has been translated into English for the first time and is being released smack bang in the middle of this year’s festival. It looks a little different to her contemporary dramas of social and political alienation, but we couldn’t be more enthusiastic to finally see it.

5. American Honey by Andrea Arnold

Mr Dadaist prank himself, Shia LaBeouf, is one of the stars of this new work by British director Andrea Arnold, her first since she travelled back to the misty moors of Wuthering Heights in 2011. It’s also her first film to be set in the USA, its story concerning a gang of tearaway teens who sell magazine subscriptions by day and party all through the night. Supercool American indie label, A24 (Room, The Witch), have picked up the film for distribution in the US, which is a very good early sign.

6. Loving by Jeff Nichols

We were big fans of Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi spectacular, Midnight Special, but since that film was completed the director has made another project, which could well sneak into the Cannes line-up. Set in 1958, the film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as an interracial married couple who are sentenced to a prison term because of their illicit and politically provocative partnership.

7. La La Land by Damien Chazelle

With a US release date pencilled in for 15 July, it would seem like a sage move to launch Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash at Europe’s premier film jamberoo. Jazz still makes an appearance in this tale of a piano player (Ryan Gosling) who falls in love with an actress (Emma Stone), but considering the manic formal stylings of that previous feature, we’re certain all will not be as simple as that.

8. Elle by Paul Verhoeven

The producer Said Ben Said has revealed himself as a champion of the “old masters”, recently making movies with Brian De Palma and Roman Polanski. Now, he brings Paul Verhoeven on to his rarified roster, enabling the director to make his first feature film in ten years – since his spectacular World War Two thriller, Black Book. With Elle, this is the first time the Dutch native has made a film in the French language, and the great Isabelle Huppert in the starring role. Even if a tiny speckle of that old Verhoeven mojo is apparent, it will be enough to warrant a major celebration.

9. Aquarius by Kleber Mendonça Filho

Brazilian critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonça Filho made the little film that could in 2012, his Neighbouring Sounds leaping from the modest springboard of the Rotterdam Film Festival and growing in stature as the months rolled by. His follow-up looks like it could be incredible, boasting a log-line that’s possibly as good (if not better) than Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster: An ageing critic lives in an apartment packed with books, films and music, but luckily she has the ability to travel through time. Sign. Us. Up. Now.

10. Slack Bay by Bruno Dumont

Rewind three years and the idea of the director Bruno Dumont making a comedy feature would be enough to make any self-respecting cinephile weep into his/her Cheerios. Well it happened, and even more surprising was the fact that his four-part serial ’Lil Quinquin was bloody hilarious. His new feature, Slack Bay, appears to cover similar terrain, billed as a dark comedy based around a number of disappearances in northern French coastal towns. Plus, it stars Juliette Binoche, who last appeared with Dumont in one of his most painful and extreme movies: Camille Claudel 1915.

11. Personal Shopper by Olivier Assayas

Billed as a ghost story set in the fashion underworld in Paris, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper sees the director re-teaming with Kristen Stewart, the star of his previous film Clouds of Sils Maria. On paper, this looks like one sage move, as on the evidence of Clouds this artistic relationship just clicked in a pretty spectacular way. Stewart went on to win a slew of critics awards – and a César award! – for her work, confirming to the world that she had more to offer than being the third point in a braying vampire-werwolf love triangle.

12. War Machine by David Michôd

We were mightily impressed by David Michôd’s second feature, The Rover, which saw the director heading in the opposite direction from mainstream cash-in after his lauded debut, Animal Kingdom. This new film is based upon Michael Hastings’ non-fiction bestseller, ‘The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan’, which gives a pretty good idea as to the film’s content. Brad Pitt, Ben Kingsley and Emory Cohen head up a dude heavy cast.

13. Family Photos by Cristian Mungiu

According to IndieWire, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu wrapped shooting of his follow-up to the brilliant Beyond the Hills in August of 2015, so it seems like he and his collaborators are playing the waiting game in order to showcase Family Photos at Cannes this year. Early word suggests the film examines the life of a small town doctor in a small Romanian village where everyone knows one another.

14. It’s Only the End of the World by Xavier Dolan

The French-Canadian wünderkind threw a strop in 2012 when his film Lawrence Anyways was not selected for the main Cannes competition, though he was sated the following year when not only did Mommy make the cut, but it saw him sharing an award with no less than Jean-Luc Godard. Although he has an English language feature planned with Jessica Chastain (among others), he’s made another film with a claque of French superstars (Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel) concerning a man who returns home to a family reunion to tell them he doesn’t have long to live.

15. Silence by Martin Scorsese

In a film which looks to be the contemplative, intense Yin to the Wolf of Wall Street’s brash, party-centric Yang, Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel – a book which the director has long cherished – is surely going to make for essential viewing. Newly freed from Marvel jail, Andrew Garfield stars alongside Kylo Ren as two catholic priests facing persecution during their missionary work in Japan. Co-star Liam Neeson spoke about his experiences on a panel at the Los Cabos Film Festival, confirming that it was a gruelling shoot and the film poses and attempts to answer the ultimate question: is there a God?

16. The Neon Demon by Nicolas Winding Refn

It’s fair to say that Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives divided audiences into those who loved it beyond words and those who wanted to burn the negative. The prospect of his follow-up – what looks to by an artfully-inclined horror movie set in the world of high fashion – has become all the more intriguing. The Neon Demon stars Elle Fanning as a hot-off-the-bus model looking to break in to the LA catwalk scene, though there are strange forces making sure that task is as difficult as possible. The composer Cliff Martinez recently described an early cut of the film as “The Valley of the Dolls meets the Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” so of course we’re insanely keen to see the outcome.

17. Toni Erdmann by Maren Ade

Maybe it might be a bit of a stretch to hope that German director Maren Ade makes the leap to the Cannes competition with her long-awaited third feature, Toni Erdmann, but considering that her previous feature, Everyone Else, was one of the best of the 00s, she certainly deserves a shot at a bigger platform. Per IonCinema, the film is said to be about a father reconnecting with his adult daughter, and we’re sure hankering to catch a glimpse of this one, in Cannes or otherwise…

18. The Handmaid by Park Chan-wook

Now this is an intriguing prospect: the South Korean director of Old Boy (aka, one of the most operatically violent films of the new millennium) returns with an adaptation of the lesbian-tinged crime novel ‘Fingersmith’ by British author Sarah Waters. The action has been transposed to 1930s Korea and Japan. According to director Park, his script diverges quite a bit from Waters’ novel, hence the changing of the name and the fact that it’s a film “inspired by” rather than “based on” the source.

19. I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach

He said that Jimmy’s Hall was going to be his final movie, but it turns out that Ken Loach was telling porkies. Returning once more with a Paul Laverty script under his arm, I, Daniel Blake takes the veteran director up to the means streets of Newcastle to tell the tale of joiner who suddenly requires treatment for illness. According to a report in Screen Daily, the film is said to be concerned with the decimation of the British welfare state and the faceless bureaucracy that’s taken over – a subject that Loach explored in his 2013 documentary, The Spirit of ’45. And because it’s Ken, be sure to see this in a Cannes competition slot come May.

20. Forushande by Asghar Farhadi

With three great films already under his belt (About Elly, A Separation and The Past), Iranian director Asghar Farhadi returns to Tehran to for Forushande. It looks at a couple whose relationship turns sour during a production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Death of a Salesman’ – Farhadi says it looks at how a seemingly sympathetic man can make the transition to being a malicious brute. As filming only began earlier this year, it seems like a Cannes slot could be something of a stretch, but this is something to get excited for come autumn.

Published 1 Mar 2016

Suggested For You

Watch the first trailer for Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta

By Little White Lies

If you trust trailers, then this one confirms that Spain’s finest director has returned to doing what he does best.

Is Nicolas Winding Refn about to go mainstream on us?

By Luke Channell

The Danish director is teaming up with a pair of 007 writers for an action thriller with huge commercial potential.

Can Xavier Dolan save Taylor Kitsch’s film career?

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

The True Detective star joins Jessica Chastain and Kit Harrington in the director’s first English language project.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.