Irish film Bonsoir Luna, which showed at the Short Film Corner at Cannes
Séamas McSwiney looks at how to sell yourself (and your) short in Cannes and how Irish shorts fared this year.
Cannes is the biggest and most diverse festival in the world… it is also a prime meeting place for small films, that is to say, shorts. The Official Selection and the parallel sections (Directors Fortnight, Critics Week, ACID…) all have at least one shorts section, usually with competitions, prizes, networking and career kick-start opportunities.
The Official Cannes selection, of course, has its shorts competition with an award given at the closing gala. This year, of the 4550 films applying, nine films were selected for competition. The award went to Waves ’98 a Lebanese film by Ely Dagher. Principally an animation film with occasional real-life images reminiscent in location, style and maybe even politics, of Ari Folman’s feature Waltz with Bashir. The Jury president for the Shorts Competition and for Cinéfondation was Abderrahmane Sissako, director of the much acclaimed Timbuktu, which to the mystification of many, left Cannes without an award last year.
Official Cannes also has a section for film-school films called Cinéfondation. Here selected student and other emerging filmmakers are also treated to a full programme of encounters and meeting opportunities. Apart from the pitching possibilities, this year saw an intimate encounter with European Commissioner Gunther H. Oettinger. He was in town to meet and discuss major changes in the Digital Economy with other head honchos and also took the time to meet with about ten young Cinéfondation filmmakers in a calm environment upstairs at the Palais, where they could air their preoccupations for a better EU film future. He listened carefully and responded like a human.
Also worth exploring for the emerging filmmaker are Cinéfondation residences in Paris, which has proved fruitful for many filmmakers, such as Hungarian film director and screenwriter, László Nemes. “Beginning in September 2011, he (Nemes) spent five months in Paris as part of a scholarship program arranged by the Cinéfondation, where he, in collaboration with Clara Royer, developed the script for Son of Saul.” (wikipedia)
This participation (along with the quality of the film) cannot have been entirely foreign to his selection with a first film in the prestigious competition where he went on to win the Grand Prix this year.
Not many Irish filmmakers apply and avail of the opportunities offered by Cinéfondation, though in 2008 Rebecca Daly did. Three years later her second film The Other Side of Sleep was selected for Directors Fortnight.
Shorts lead to longs and, if Cannes is in your sights, the Palais basement Short Film Corner is a good place to start your long-term strategy for a Palme d’Or.
It’s a mini Cannes within Cannes, ten days of creative business opportunities for shorts-sighted, hungry hearts. More than two thousand short films avail of registration with the Corner and many other emerging filmmakers also attend to participate in the conferences and watch films.
This year there were 2420 films (501 more than 2014) from 105 countries (7 more than 2014) and 38% of films applying were refused for lack of technical proficiency (bad sound, unintentional amateurism, etc…)
Among the Irish contingent this year was actor Hilary Bowen-Walsh. She plays a lead in Donncha Gilmore’s Irish language musical short Bonsoir Luna shot in George’s Street Arcade in Dublin. Hilary returned to Ireland brimming with enthusiasm for her Cannes experience:
“It’s been wonderful to participate in this most prestigious film festival. It was especially significant for us to have shown Bonsoir Luna in France given its direct homage to the great French musical cinema of Jacques Demy. The film is an effervescent celebration of colour and song while being the first ever Irish-language musical. At the Short Film Corner. I got to meet a vast range of international and national filmmakers who were screening their films, and the atmosphere is very encouraging. Having seen all of the Irish shorts sent to Cannes this year I would dare say we are well up there with our international counterparts.
“Amongst the other Irish-language shorts represented alongside Bonsoir Luna was An Crann featuring the highly talented Bairbre Ní Caoimh in an insidious dispute over a neighbouring tree. Plus the documentary Charlie Lennon- Ceol ón gCroí, produced by Ciarán Durkin of the Galway Film Fleadh, which had a similar musical streak throughout. The Irish filmmaker Don Duncan also had a great French-language short Un Signe, Un geste, which was represented by Belgium.
“The international village was a perfect spot to engage with the film industry from all different countries. The Irish Film Board had a great base in the Irish Pavilion which facilitated meetings with a wide range of people, sending a clear message that Irish cinema is awash with the best of the best.
“Cannes can be a little overwhelming as there are so many people to meet and films to see, but it is a great opportunity to come away both bedraggled but also enriched. Bring on next year!”
Other Irish shorts that featured at the Short Film Corner were Bertie Brosnan’s Sineater, Michela Orlandi’s The Silencer, Helen Rollins’ Jamaica, Stephen O’Connor’s The Crossing, Erin Mullally’s The Struggle of Libations, Natasha Waugh’s Food Fight, Hannah Quinn’s My Bonnie, Craig Moore’s Any Last Words, Richard Scobie’s Arabella, Eoghan O’Brien & Gary Sheridan’s In Pitch Dark, Colin Murnane’s Pedestrian Crossing, Luke Morgan’s Pocket, and Yvonne McDevitt’s Time.
In a nice twist of synchronicity, this year also saw Agnès Varda awarded the Palme d’Honneur (previously awarded only to Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci. (http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en/readArticlePressRelease/61348.html). In an excellent acceptance speech Varda elegantly recounted her struggles as a very determined and independent-minded filmmaker. The 87-year young cineaste also emotionally referred to the fact that she would put the award beside the 1964 Palme d’Or won by her late husband Jacques Demy for the French musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
One wonders if she knew that down in the basement a homage to her beloved husband was digitally spinning out as Gaeilge. Donncha, I guess you know where to send the DVD for her birthday.
Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris.
The 68th Cannes Festival runs 13 – 24 May 2015