Irish-Backed ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ Wins @ Cannes


Yorgos Lanthimos and  Efthymis Filippou have picked up the award for Best Screenplay at the closing ceremony of the 70th Cannes Film Festival for the Irish-backed The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The prize was shared with Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was produced by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe’s Element Pictures. Lanthimos and his regular collaborator, Efthymis Filippou, co-wrote the project, which was shot last Autumn in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Speaking from Cannes, Element Pictures Producer Ed Guiney commented that “All of us at Element are absolutely delighted with the script prize for Efthymis and Yorgos. Yorgos has made a masterful signature film which will enthrall audiences around the world. We are very grateful to all of our financiers including Film4, New Sparta, Hanway and the Irish Film Board”

The Killing of a Sacred Deer  sees Colin Farrell reunite with Lanthimos. Farrell stars as Steven, a charismatic surgeon forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart when the behaviour of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing takes a sinister turn. Nicole Kidman also stars as the wife of Farrell’s character, along with young, Irish actor Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy , Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp and Alicia Silverstone.

The film is financed by Film4 and New Sparta Films along with the Irish Film Board. The project was developed by Element Pictures with support from Film4. HanWay Films is worldwide sales agent with A24 on board as US distributor.


Cannes 2017: full list of winners

Caméra d’Or (best first feature)

Jeune Femme (Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) (dir: Léonor Serraille)

Best short film

A Gentle Night (dir: Qiu Yang)

Best screenplay

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (dir: Yorgos Lanthimos); You Were Never Really Here (dir: Lynne Ramsay)

Jury prize

Loveless (dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev)

Best actress

Diane Kruger, In the Fade (dir: Fatih Akin)

Best actor

Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here (dir: Lynne Ramsay)

Best director

Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

Grand Prix

120 Beats per Minute (dir: Robin Campillo)

70th Anniversary prize

Nicole Kidman

Palme d’Or

The Square (dir: Ruben Östlund)








Cannes 2017: Quinzaine – Directors Fortnight


Danielle Macdonald appears in Patti Cake$, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Séamas McSwiney previews the 49th annual edition of the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight section

“You’d have to be a complete idiot to go to Cannes this year, with everything that’s going on right now!” said a May ’68 demonstrator to Jean-Luc Godard as they marched. And there are echoes with the current political revolution happening in Paris, albeit a centrist one. The sequence appears in a teaser from Michel Hazanvicius’ competition entry, Le Redoutable, which tells the tale of Jean-Luc Godard’s love affair with Anne Wiazemsky. What happens next in the real life political story is that a group of young firebrand directors, including Truffaut, Godard, Polanski and Milos Forman, simply brought the revolution south to Cannes and shut down the Le Festival already into its second week. Spanish director Carlos Saura went as far as hanging on to the stage curtains to stop his own film Peppermint Frappé from screening. Cinema and politics coming to grips in a very hands-on way!

One of the upshots of this revolutionary verve was the creation in June ‘68 of the French Directors Guild (Le SRF), designed to protect the artistic and economic interests of film directors. In 1969 they launched La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Director’s Fortnight) as an alternative to establishment Cannes. It has since been the launch-pad of luminaries such as George Lucas, Ken Loach, Michael Haneke, Spike Lee, the Dardenne brothers, and many others…

True to its original spirit of discovery, there are five first films in this year’s Quinzaine and seven directed by women.


I Am Not a Witch

Among them, we meet Shula, a 9-year-old girl convicted of sorcery and exiled from her Zambian village to a witch camp in the desert. Once there she discovers the strange protocols of the place and manages to derange the other inmates… Thus begins the tale of I Am Not a Witch, a present-day African satire about beliefs in witchcraft. This Zambian tale is director Rungano Nyoni’s first feature, but it won’t be her first trip to Le Festival. Born in Lusaka, she grew up in Wales and studied drama in London. Her first film, The List, won a BAFTA Cymru and, more recently, a Danish-Finnish short co-directed with Iranian-Finnish director Hamy Ramezan, Listen, was programmed in Directors Fortnight in 2014 and nominated for an EFA Award.

I am Not a Witch is a Franco-British-German co-production with an impressive array of institutions behind it. Nurtured by a series of development residencies, including Cannes’ own Cinéfondation and other European funding initiatives like Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and the Hubert Bals Fund in Holland, it also has some choice UK investors in Channel 4 and BFI. Her British producer Emily Morgan of Soda Pictures says, “It’s been exciting seeing Rungano deliver on her truly original script with such emotive visual flair and her unique blend of fantasy and realism, amidst a variety of captivating Zambian landscapes.” Will the benevolently byzantine alchemy of European film funding be an inspiring bedfellow for sub-Saharan cinematic sorcery? We’ll soon see. One certainty is the media magic of nine-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) graces the Croisette with her presence.

Un beau soleil interieur de Claire Denis photo 1

Un Beau Soleil d’Interieur

Among the 19 features, there will be five films from France and five from the USA, with three from Italy. Claire Denis’s Un beau soleil intérieur will open. In a departure for her, it is a comedy starring an array of top French thespians including Juliette Binoche in the lead as a divorced woman’s philosophical quest for true love and a cameo from Gerard Depardieu as a fortune teller. The closing film will be Patti Cake$ by Geremy Jasper, a film that started a bidding war in Sundance this year. “You’ve never met a rapper like Patricia Dombrowski. Her best friend calls her Killa-P, while the haters call her Dumbo, but to us, she will always be “Patti Cake$,” an overweight white hip-hop artist who announces her force-of-nature personality from her very first song” said Variety.



Bushwick, by Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott, tells a near-future dystopia set in the neighbourhood of the same name. It seems there is to be a new war of secession as bodies litter the streets of Brooklyn. Who is behind this new American civil war? Have the masked marauders mad dog Texans come to fix the Yankees? Is it a metaphor for what’s happening under the surface to today’s morally battered USA? Is it a B-movie masquerading as agitprop? You’ll get no spoilers here.




Imagine a jolly film from today’s Afghanistan that gives us more insight than 24 years of 24-hour news reports. That’s what we have with Nothingwood. Salim Shaheen is a filmmaker, he’s directed 110 films, ranging from Bruce Lee style actioners to Bollywood inspired rom-coms, complete with song and dance numbers and low-budget special effects. All were shot during the past forty years, a period when Afghanistan has been in a state of almost perpetual war, beginning with the Russian occupation and up to the current Kabul government-Western coalition war with the Taliban. He acts in his own films, so he is probably one of the most popular people in the country bringing a particularly Afghan blend of escapism to the fraught lives of the people.

Nothingwood is a documentary by French-Swedish director Sonia Kronland, a journalist who has been a regular visitor to Afghanistan for fifteen years. Despite her seeming reticence, the film becomes a kind of double act between her and Salim, filmmaker to filmmaker, as they and his band of Merry Men take a small UN jet to a mountainous region to shoot what appears to be his own fictionalised bio-pic. He’s a gregarious make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of director and helpfully chooses interesting locations for Sonia’s film as they work through his own shooting schedule, stealing images and improvising scenes here and there.

As well as being the story of an extraordinarily resourceful man, somewhat imbued with himself, the film, while telling his story, is a litany of revealing socio-cultural surprises: a masked Taliban who talks about his love for Salim’s films, though forbidden by his beliefs; Salim, himself an observant Muslim, brings us to his home where we meet his many sons, all of whom have acted in his films, but we will not meet his two wives or his many daughters. “I know them but filming them was out of the question”, says Kronland. Then there is the slow reveal of his favourite actor, Qurban Ali, a man who likes to dress up as women, who ostensibly demonstrates a queenly demeanour, whether in drag or not. We meet his wife and children in wry interview and realise that “as long as he does not come out as a homosexual, his taste for gender role switching and cross-dressing is tolerated and even appreciated in Afghan society” says Kronland. Asked how she was accepted as a woman, Kronland says, “It was easy, because to them, … I am a foreigner, I am not a Muslim and, above all, I am a director; So I cannot really be a woman!” 

As this caravanserai of a film unspools, Nothingwood becomes an accommodating tango between two filmmakers, dancing to different tunes in refreshing harmony, as it reveals a mostly fun loving, sunny-side of the Afghan disposition. Thus it is also a two-tier tribute to cinema as a balm to appease the worst of human behaviour.


Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris  

This year’s Cannes Festival takes place 17 – 28 May 2017


Cannes Opener 2017


Citizen Ken Conquers Cannes


I, Ken Loach

Séamas McSwiney looks back over this year’s Cannes Film Festival and finds gold in them thar hills.

Alchemy is — tells us— “a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.” This becomes a facetiously accurate allegory when attempting to fathom the mysteries of cinema in general and Cannes and its jury in particular. One wonders why such a flamboyant discipline as alchemy ever became so discredited. Perhaps it was simply reborn and renamed: the pictures.

As the eternal Cannes triangulation of films selected for competition, out of the 1800 candidates, why this 20?; the Jury of 9 eminent talents, led by George Miller this year, where the promising whole became less than the sum of the parts; and, thirdly, the 4000 press and critics on the ground, who have seen the former two get it all wrong before. This scalene standoff will never be entirely resolved and this year it carried extra layers of plot points.

Amongst the razzle and dazzle, the caviar and champagne, Citizen Ken conquered the Croisette with a condemnation of working class woes in neo-Thatcherite England. A delightfully incongruous sight to see: between the militant fist raised, the snappy tux and the sparkling Palme d’Or he had just been awarded, he launched into what amounted to a social politics stump speech. Pure Ken Loach, for his cinema always has a political purpose. His new film, I, Daniel Blake was a surprise winner for many, though accepted by most.

It tells the troubling tale of a prickly 59-year old carpenter in Newcastle having difficulty juggling between doctor’s orders on one hand, having had a minor heart attack, and dealing with the programmed heartlessness of social services underlings on the other. They are clearly instructed to obstruct applicants for benefits so as to curb unemployment statistics. Dan Blake finds common cause with Katie, a single mother with two kids transposed from London and all at sea among the Geordies. It’s a strong, necessary and deserving film of the need to resist being ground down. It’s a film about the ills of austerity and about its victims. In his speech Citizen Ken spoke of a better world possible, one that is better than the food-bank shopping that is pitifully becoming more and more necessary for too many.

Throughout the 12 days of Cannes, early screener I, Daniel Blake wasn’t high on critics’ lists to take a top prize and, though most appreciate the work, some also feel that Loach promotes a singular perspective rather than a nuanced cinema, that he puts his politics before his art. In any case, for a man who said he made his last film two years ago, it was a spectacular return from retirement for the 79-year old auteur.

Neither alchemy nor cinema is an exact discipline. Erratic or random would seem the more appropriate description when we get to this year’s second prize, or the Grand Prix du Jury, which went to the youngest candidate, 27-year old Quebecois, Xavier Dolan (pictured below), with a French opus adapted from a theatre piece called It’s Only the End of the World.  It’s a frantic family reunion around a returned young son who has come home announcing his imminent death.


It’s Only the Grand Prix du Jury

Hitting the second lowest score on Screen’s prestigious critics grid, it was derided by many since its screening early in the week. Even some usual Dolan fans felt it was too shouty and hysterical. However, it did garner some of the unconditional love Xavier craves. And this in the most important place possible – among a Jury that looks like an ideal dinner party, Mad Max’s Dad, George Miller, French cutting-edge auteur, Arnaud Desplechin, sassy Kirsten Dunst and alluring actress-helmer Valeria Golino, handsome cannibal Mads Mikkelsen, Hungary’s youthful father of Son of Saul, László Nemes, French actor-singer and proud Mum in Cannes, Vanessa Paradis, elegantly veiled Iranian producer Katayoon Shahabi, and the grumpily avuncular grandee, Donald Sutherland.

In Cannes, all of the major US and European trades publish daily news magazines, and some create their own juries tracking favourites for the completion as the festival rolls on at the rate of two competition films a day. This is Screen International’s closing Jury Grid, with comments that largely reflects the evolving vox pop exchanged in the Croisette trenches:

As other weaker films picked up prizes, notably Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, many were struck, if not shocked, by the hot tips that were forgotten, notably Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and even the last day’s black-comedy crime cum social satire, Elle, by Paul Verhoeven, which turned into a perfectly boisterous way to conclude a selection that, inevitably, contained principally grim fare.


Double Your Sales

Asghar Farhadi (pictured above) returned and picked up two prizes, best actor and best screenplay, for a not-quite-up-to-his best Forushande/The Salesman, a post-earthquake tale whose tremors reverberate and imbalance an artsy couple playing in a Persian version of Arthur Miller’s play.

Also, just a tad less inspired than with previous Cannes favourites, Cristian Mungiu, who shared the Director’s prize with Assayas, returned with Bacalaureat, a father-daughter story, he a doctor and she on the cusp of a scholarship to Oxford. Unexpected events deftly reveal endemic day-to-day corruption in a provincial city in Romania.

France Cannes Awards Photo Call
                  The brillante Jaclyn Jose

Another fascinating analysis, this time of street level corruption, is demonstrated in Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa. Jaclyn Jose picked up best actress for playing the mother of four grown kids running a small store in a poor area of Manila and dealing a little meth on the side. A betrayal leads to a shakedown and rival cops seek to line their pockets by threatening the family with a long stretch inside. Just another day and night cataloguing the inevitability of this vice. And, this time, Mendoza’s ramshackle style captured perfectly his subject and story. And, while Jose gave a great performance as the acerbic matriarch, many would have preferred Sonia Braga in Aquarius, Sandra Huller in Toni Erdmann or, indeed, a special turn by Isabelle Huppert in Elle, where she takes her deadpan style Isabelle-ness, to a whole new level.


Michèle et un chat

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (pictured above) will unfortunately be misunderstood, starting as it does with Michèle’s (Huppert) politically inappropriate response to a brutal rape she endures in the first minute of the film. She’s an extremely hard-nosed entrepreneur running a successful video games company. Her favourite register is sarcasm. She’s also a divorced mother with a sweet but inept son, a struggling ex-husband and a lubricious mother. There is also a very sinister childhood past with a dying dad in jail. But the whole thing is a hilarious social satire adapted from Philippe Djian’s novel Oh. It’s an absurdist self-parodying film about the French, adapted by an American, directed by a Dutchman, produced by a Tunisian (who also did Aquarius), that is almost Wildean in its caricatures, possibly inventing some brand new French clichés along the way. It’s not meant to be taken seriously; in fact, spontaneous (i.e. non-ironic) laughter peppered the entire early morning press screening. See it first, for if we are to get stuck on a one-note issue, we miss the almost masculine female phantasmagoria of this flick. Michèle is in control and she has no desire for things to be otherwise. One of the many interesting things that cropped up in the Elle press conference was when Verhoeven railed against the Hollywood scenaristic diktat that a character must change. Nonsense, he said, people stay the same (press conference and all Cannes videos at :


Where is my prize?

In a strange way, as there was such consensus around Toni Erdmann (pictured above), it’s possibly better that it did not get some minor consolation prize like a shared director’s award. Sure-handed director Maren Ade, also the film’s producer and writer, takes her time (2h42) in telling a shaggy-dog father-daughter tale of multiple misunderstandings that starts in Germany and then mostly takes place in Bucharest, making it a de facto third Romanian film in competition. There, Ines is a somewhat ruthless management consultant downsizing a struggling oil company for her German bosses.

The result is often bittersweet, often hilarious, as jokester, music teacher Dad ambles into town, dons fake chops and wig, and poses as a life-style coach re-monikered as Toni Erdmann. Not unlike Ade’s own vater, she says. He wants to save his only child from her seriousness and, with his muddling efforts, he (and Ines) also provided the Cannes audiences with some of the biggest and most unexpected laughs in the festival.

So, for once the top gong could easily have gone to a woman and no tokenism would have been suspected. Maybe “the film that should have won the Palme”  will give it even more momentum.

Print the legend. Alchemy producing marketing gold.

In any case, long live a cinema that provokes debate and controversy, for whatever reason, long live cultural diversity and —therefore— long live Cannes!

Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris

The 2016  Cannes Film Festival took place 11 – 22 May


Cannes 69

Cannes poster lodef 22x30-def-72dpi

Séamas McSwiney previews this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which runs from 11 – 22 May 2016.

Cannes 69 shimmers on the horizon and the last of the calculated surprises are added to the red-carpet menu and the various juries are composed and named.

The first striking element this year was the poster. Rather than the usual elegant black and white photo of a screen icon from some golden age, Cannes 2016 celebrates cinema itself with a golden shot of a man ascending the staircase-wall of Casa Malaparte on the Isle of Capri, thus providing a film geek’s field day of interpretation and reference. Casa Malaparte is an Italian architectural icon though most famously it is a location, almost a character, for Jean-Luc Godard’s mesmerising Le mepris (Contempt), a lusciously shot-in-cinemascope celluloid tale of love and loathing in the merciless world of ’60s filmmaking.

This glowing image also provides some sort of compensation as, for once, there are no Italian films in any of the other official selections, though the parallel section Director’s Fortnight does have three.

There is, however, for the first time in many years, a German film in competition called Toni Erdmann, written, directed and produced by Maren Ade. In it, a father, without warning, comes to visit his daughter abroad, for he believes that she has lost her sense of humour and he would seek to remedy this.

The 20th and final film added to this year’s competition line-up was The Salesman, by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, still in the final stages of post-production at the time of selection. Farhadi has already struck gold and silver at the Berlinale, with A Separation and About Elly, both relationship dramas in Farsi, as is his Cannes entry. So, one to watch.

Other art-house aristocrats, such as Ken Loach, Pedro Almodovar and the Dardenne brothers, will also be vying for the Palme d’Or along with a sprinkle of green shoots to rejuvenate the equation of usual suspects. After saying Jimmy’s Hall was his last film, Loach is back on familiar ground with I, Daniel Blake, a working class tale confronting the bureaucratic iniquities of unemployment and public housing. Grim narrative prospects but we can count on Loach and his screenwriting partner Paul Laverty to wring wry humour from such social strife.

Almodovar’s offer is Julieta, based on three Alice Munro short stories and spanning three decades of his protagonist’s life. One of the rare films to break Cannes protocol of screening only premieres, Julieta has already been released in Spain and respectfully reviewed, though not in ways that promise Pedro the Palme d’Or that has thus far eluded him.

Belgian brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne on the other hand, twice previous Palme winners with Rosetta and The Child, are going for a hat trick with La Fille inconnue (The Unknown Girl). Adèle Haenel plays a young doctor, troubled by guilt after the death of a young woman she turned away. She sets about finding out who the anonymous woman was and finds her conscience has led her into a suspense drama.

Both Almodovar and the Dardennes more often than not have female protagonists, though their preoccupations can seem to be quite different, the former mining the breathier metaphysics of being female with the latter focusing on solid socio-political dilemmas from a woman’s perspective.

While these stalwarts regularly do often pass their Bechdel Test with honours, thankfully, there are, along with Maren Ade’s inclusion, two other ‘femme cinéastes’ in competition, who will bring bona fide female voices to the 2,500-seat Theatre Lumiere; and both bring with them a reputation for bringing heft and uncompromomising originality to their art. Andrea Arnold will walk up the red-carpeted staircase to present her latest opus American Honey. Shia LaBeouf, hooks up with a tearaway teen, played by Sasha Lane, in a mid-western road movie of salesmanship and hard partying. Given Arnold’s previous form, we know this transatlantic venture will not be ordinary. The other woman filmmaker is France’s Nicole Garcia with Mal de Pierres, in which Marion Cotillard, a badly married middle-class wife and Louis Garel, a wounded veteran, are illegitimate lovers in rural post-war France. As with Almodovar and the Dardennes, Garcia has always shown a deft hand in subtly plumbing the depths of the opposite sex’s psyche.

So far so appetising as Cannes menus go though, as usual, on the day, there are more disappointments than pleasant surprises. While nationality is now attributed by the director’s origins, Dutchman Paul Verhoeven will be there with Elle, a French film starring Isabelle Huppert. She plays a business woman who is ruthless in work and in love. She is raped by a masked intruder but her resulting transformation is (controversially?) not what a classic tale of violation might normally predict. Advance word is very promising for the 77-year old Verhoeven, who previously shocked and awed Cannes with Basic Instinct in 1992.

A duo of Romanians proves their new era of cinema is not a mere flash in the pan; they include Bacalaureat, by Cristian Mungiu, who has a habit of getting things right in unlikely circumstances. And also, a first competition slot for Cristi Puiu who comes with Sieranevada.  There is also Xavier Dolan, the Quebecois wunderkind, with Juste la fin du monde, a star-studded French flick that includes Marion Cotillard and Lea Seydoux in its cast. An American trio of films includes Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson about a bus driver called Paterson, played by Adam Driver, in Paterson, New Jersey. “Very Jarmuschian” was the only insight offered at the press conference by Cannes artistic director, Thierry Fremaux. Jarmusch also presents a midnight screening of Gimme Danger, his Iggy Pop bio doc. Jeff Nichols’ 1950s interracial marriage drama, Loving, stars Ireland’s own Ruth Negga, and Sean Penn arrives with The Last Face, a love story, starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem set in a Liberian humanitarian aid context. Given Penn’s real life political proclivities and his busted romantic affair with Theron, the film will surely carry personal influences… just like Godard’s Mepris.

Which of these will hit and which will miss is mere conjecture and sometimes hearsay or disputed opinion…

Meanwhile here is a compilation of trailers courtesy of Screen International.


Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris



Shorts-Sighted in Cannes: From the Basement of the Palais to the Top of the Red Carpet


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.

(All you need to see about the Short Film Corner: and all you need to know:

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. ( 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


Interview: Juliette Bonass, Producer on the Move at Cannes



This week at the Cannes International Film Festival (May 13 – 24, 2015) 20 of the most energetic, emerging producers from across Europe participate in the networking platform, Producers on the Move. Amongst them is Ireland’s Juliette Bonass.

After working as a line producer on several film productions from 2007, Juliette Bonass moved into producing in 2010 with the short film Noreen. In 2013, she made her debut as a feature film producer on Brendan Grant’s Get Up and Go, which was released in cinemas on 1st May 2015. Since then, Juliette has worked with Ed Guiney at Element Pictures and co-produced Gerard Barrett’s Glassland, which was released to critical acclaim. Juliette is now in post-production on Darren Thornton’s comedy A Date for Mad Mary and developing David Kerr’s horse-racing comedy The Gee Gee’s.

Speaking to Film Ireland, Juliette says she feels “absolutely privileged and delighted to be named among the Producers on the Move. I am very grateful to the Irish Film Board and the European Film Promotion for selecting me.  It’s an amazing opportunity to network and meet the other 19 producers, hopefully with a view to co-production in the future, availing of financing opportunities on projects they have in development now. It’s also just really good to brainstorm on future projects with like-minded producers and hopefully establish long-forming relationships and have  working partnerships there in years to come. Also it’ll brilliant to be around an atmosphere in such an intense working environment for 4 days and hopefully will be a lot of fun as well!”

Juliette explains that the 4-day event, which runs from (15 – 18 May), “basically involves your project pitchings, discussions and one-on-one meetings with all the other producers. The European Film Promotion also give a lot of promotion to all the producer’s profiles in the international trade papers over there. Its main aim is to help the European producers find partners for upcoming projects and strengthen co-producing relationships.”

Previous Irish Producers on the Move include John Keville (You’re Ugly Too, Brand New U), Rebecca O’Flanagan (The Stag, My Brothers), Conor Barry (Savage, Love Eternal), Morgan Bushe (Colony, The Other Side of Sleep, The Last Days of Peter Bergmann), Katie Holly (Sensation, One Hundred Mornings, Citadel) and Andrew Freedman (His & Hers, The Herd, Return to Roscoff. Their experiences are testament to the effect Producers on the Move has on a producer’s career. Juliette explains, “I know a lot of them have gone forward and co-produced projects which came directly out of their experiences at Producers on the Move and I know it has raised their profile somewhat and also means something to financiers and the decision-makers. So definitely it raises a producer’s profile and helps them move forward in their careers. Obviously it comes down to how good you are and how hard you work but the exposure is a definite help. And I expect that you learn so much as well being exposed to so many talented producers in such an intense working environment.”

Asking Juliette if there’s any project in particular she’s bringing over she says that she is keeping an open mind. “There’s a few projects I’m developing with Element Pictures, which I would hope to discuss. But also I’ll be interested in talking to the producers about their projects.



The full list of Producers on the Move 2015


    • Mariusz Wlodarski


    • Ellen Havenith
    • The Netherlands


    • Miha Cernec


    • Snežana Penev



  • Arturo Paglia



  • Heather Millard



  • Annika Rogell



  • Joana Ferreira



  • Jan Macola
    Czech Republic



  • Katja Adomeit


  • Juliette Bonass


  • Montse Triola


  • Marek Urban
    Slovak Republic


  • Mikko Tenhunen


  • Živile Gallego


  • Svetozar Ristovski
    FYR of Macedonia


  • Pierre Guyard


  • Aline Schmid


  • Ingmar Trost


  • Kjetil Omberg

‘The Lobster’ to Premiere at Cannes




The Lobster will have its world premiere at this year’s 68th Cannes Film Festival, screening in official competition. The Lobster is the English-language debut of internationally acclaimed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.

Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and Michael Smiley, The Lobster is a blackly funny love story set in a near future where finding love is a matter of life or death.

The film was shot at Parknasilla in Co Kerry in Spring 2014 and produced by Irish company Element Pictures who will also distribute in Ireland later this year.


The Lobster is written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou and produced by Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Ceci Dempsey and Yorgos Lanthimos. Executive Producers are Andrew Lowe, Tessa Ross and Sam Lavender. The film was developed by Element and Irish finance for the film came from the Irish Film Board.




Cannes Diary Days 4-6



 Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis


David Neary dons his debs tux, fumes at French teens and survives on the Cannes diet and nap regime.


Day four began at the crack of dawn as I ventured into Cannes for the 8.30am screening of Jimmy P., playing here in competition. Insult added to sleepy injury, there wasn’t much demand for it and I could’ve shown up just as it started, instead of a little after 7.But it was my first film in the colossal Grand Théâtre Lumière, and had to make sure I saw something in the cinema where all the real magic happens. Jimmy P., however, was not a good example of this magic. The film, full title Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, is a mess of a play of a film, a series of decently performed psychotherapy sessions that say very little about the male psyche or Native American history and society. Now, I don’t want to be over-dramatic here, but in terms of the people involved – Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Almaric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) star, Howard Shore scores, Stéphane Fontaine (Rust and Bone) is DoP. and the director is Arnaud Desplechin, beloved in his native France for films such as A Christmas Tale (not to be confused with A Christmas Story, that’s a very different film) – Jimmy P. may just be the most disappointing movie ever made. Pretty but permanently bland, with tiresome dialogue and Oscar-baiting performances, it is somehow never exactly boring, but it’s not for a moment interesting.The epic dud-ishness of this first flop of the festival was all anyone could talk about Saturday – well that and the starter pistol incident that resulted in a man being arrested Friday, and Christoph Waltz being forced to run for his life. This impeded everyone by ramping up the already excessive security procedures – getting into the Grand Palais now requires more bag and I.D. checks than the United States.Still buzzing from Like Father, Like Son the night before, not even Jimmy P. could bring me down. At the press conference for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film (they say never meet your heroes, but you should sit in rooms with them and hear them talk if you can), we got some great insights into the film. One of the most fascinating revelations was that the child actors in the film were never given the script; the adult actors had set lines to deliver and the kids were invited to just respond to those. As the star Masahuru Fukuyama put it, ‘we just let them play’.

Surely the quote of the festival so far came from six-ish-year-old actor Shogen Hwang, who was asked what he thought of Like Father, Like Son and of working on it. Translated from the Japanese into French before being fed by a second interpreter into my earpiece in English, little Shogen responded: ‘It was fun and very interesting,’ before pausing to add ‘The end was not a real end, and I like it.’ If I were a film critic in Japan I’d be watching my back, because that kid would have my job in 15 years!

I dropped by the Irish Pavilion, to check on how the Film Board were succeeding in  promoting their wares and steal some of their coffee and wifi. Things seemed to be going well, although the intermittent rain was disabling their terrace from being used for meetings. Never underestimate the role the sun can play in business transactions.

Playing as part of the Cannes Classic section of the festival, Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (The Lonely Wife) was a chance for me to brush up on my film history. Both Ray and Indian cinema are massive blank spots on my to-see list, so this was an unmissable chance (although only because nothing else newer and more appealing was on at the same time). A pleasant love-triangle drama with some plucky musical asides, it gets a little bogged down in period politics of its 1870s setting. Slowly paced, its late afternoon screening time was perhaps ill-judged, and the audience began dozing on a pretty wide scale. The cinema, the Salle Buñuel, has the most legroom I have ever come across in any theatre, so I suppose I can’t blame the sleepyheads.

Had dinner with a friend, American filmmaker Heather Fink, over in Cannes gathering finances for her end-of the-world comedy http 404, about mankind’s struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world without internet. Given the pathetic quality of the wifi (or ‘weefee’ as they say here) around Cannes, I feel like I am already living in that universe, and it is hell.

The only hell worse than not having internet is queuing, and queue we did. In line for the hugely in-demand Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest from the Coen brothers, a big crowd of lowly journalists waited two hours just to get in. The press pass system here is cruelly tiered, with white and pink badged hacks waltzing in 15 minutes before the movie starts while the blues and yellows camp out hoping that the pastels leave us a few seats. Carnage broke out when the doors finally opened, but a preposterous decision from on high meant that only the blue badges could go through – desperate film critics shoved and tore their way through the crowd. Tensions and bodies became heated. New aromas never before smelled by man were invented. By the end of the debacle, the yellows were turned away, cut off by Cannes’ cruel system of journalistic apartheid. There was nothing to be done except go to the bar for a much-needed drink.

Sunday I took off, hanging out in suburban beach town Antibes to catch up on sleep, writing, and most important of all food. Cannes is so hectic and expensive that many people struggle to manage even one meal a day, living off of espresso and free M&Ms. No doctor has yet come out in support of the Cannes diet, but a week in the results are already speaking for themselves in terms of belt notches. And in terms of scurvy.

However, since the only thing better than not watching movies is watching movies, I opted to head back into Cannes Sunday night for my first black tie event of the festival. The black tie dos here are ticketed affairs, and while tickets must be requested by the plebs of the cinema, many people opt to camp out in their finery hoping that a generous and busy patron of the festival will throw them a spare. This was my only option. Standing there like a nob in my somehow still wearable debs tux with a scrap of paper reading ‘un billet s’il vous plait’, I felt like the festival was beginning to turn against me. But only for five minutes; that’s how long I was there before someone gave me a ticket for the premiere of Borgman. Beggars can’t be choosers, but they can be winners.



 Mr Neary scrubbed up

Ascending the red carpet staircase of the Lumière with a bombardment of camera flashes firing off all around was one of those rare experiences of satisfaction you get as a cinephile. Inside Ifound myself  seated in the best available place some hundred feet above the main floor and waited for the director and his cast to arrive for the film to start.

Borgman, the Netherlands’ first entry in competition in nearly 40 years, is a twisted black comedy thriller horror satire that feels like the illegitimate child of Dogtooth and Boudu Saved From Drowning. Borgman, played by Christoph Waltz’s cousin (probably) Jan Bijvoet, is a fiendishly manipulative homeless man who blags his way into the suburban home of a miserably well-off family. Things start out strange, and get stranger, before getting absolutely batshit demented as Borgman takes complete control of the household, bodies begin to pile up and reality begins to collapse on itself. Disturbing but often hilariously funny, it is one of the most pleasant surprises of the festival so far.

The only real disappointment of the night was the four French teens to my left, who talked and checked their phones and falsely hollered laughing when the audience laughed all through the movie. The only thing worse than louts is louts in tuxedos. Steven Soderbergh’s right, the cinema experience really is dying. If it can happen at Cannes, it can happen anywhere.

Having missed the last train to Antibes, the only option was to party through the night, resulting in me missing the first train as well. Worried about when I would ever catch up on the sleep I was missing, a fellow rail user provided some help by wising me up to the concept of the ‘Cannes nap’. This ingenious ploy is performed by finding a film that you don’t want to see that is on during a gap in your schedule and going in purely with the intention of falling asleep for the film’s duration. Films not in your own language are of course preferable so you’re not being woken by the dialogue. I didn’t know how soon I was going to need one of these…

Arriving back at my apartment, my alarm having gone off en route from the train station, I climbed out of my tux and into the shower before heading straight back to Cannes like some kind of film devouring machine.

First up was Takashi Miike’s in competition thriller Wara No Tate (Shield of Straw), about a group of cops protecting a killer from innumerable bounty hunters after the billionaire grandfather of his murder victim puts a colossal sum on his head. At least, I think that’s what it’s about. I couldn’t be certain, since the subtitle track in English didn’t work. Normally I would take this as an opportunity to walk out of the film, but given my schedule for the day, I switched to a seat near the back, took off my glasses, put on my sunglasses and took a Cannes nap, falling unconscious for two blissful hours.

I didn’t miss much it seems. There were boos in one screening, and most critics agreed it was a waste of a competition slot. With another hour to kill, I headed down to the beach and rested to try and keep my energy up for the day of movies ahead.

Determined to see it at the festival since it won’t hit cinemas until December at the earliest, I queued once more for Inside Llewyn Davis, and this time got in. An intimate film from the Coens about a folk singer in 1962 New York, it’s another triumph for the pair. Drifting between comedy and heavy introspective drama, Oscar Isaac (Drive) is astounding as Llewyn, a tortured artist furious at his own music because it won’t provide a future for him. If there’s a better soundtrack this year, I’ll be shocked.

Feeling accomplished after catching that, I got queuing for one of my most anticipated films of the festival, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty). Director Paolo Sorrentino’s last film, the Dublin/America-set This Must Be the Place was a troubled, if beautiful, mess, and I was very much hoping for a return to form with the director reuniting with his muse Toni Servillo. Alas I was to be disappointed. Ostensibly a retread of Fellini’s La Dolce VitaLa Grande Bellezza sees Servillo playing an aged libertine struggling to start a second novel decades after his first work became an astonishing success. Immaculately shot with suitably oddball asides, Sorrentino’s film is never less than eye-blisteringly beautiful, and Servillo is perfect in the role, but the story meanders from scene to scene without effectively building its themes, and it struggles to come together at the end. It’s a step up from This Must Be the Place, but still a long away from the glorious heights of his The Consequences of Love and Il Divo.

Racing from that screening I had very little time to make it to a cinema down the promenade to catch Irish director Ruairi Robinson’s Last Days on Mars. With the streets thronged with black tie and gowned moviegoers queuing for disappointment in Wara No Tate, navigating my way to the film before it started turned out to be impossible, and I took this as a sign from the cine-gods that I badly needed to go home and get some sleep.

Halfway through the festival now, and with no decisive leader for the Palme D’Or, anything could happen yet. Most likely more films though. We’ll see what else.


Check out David Neary’s previous diary entries:

Cannes Diary: Days 2-3
David Neary eavesdrops on the Danish, gets berated by a Mexican, shares a boat with Metallica and hangs out with three of a decade’s worth of celebrity crushes. It’s tough in Cannes…

Cannes Diary: Day 1
David Neary brushes shoulders with the stars and an umbrella salesman at Cannes.


Cannes Diary: Day 2-3

France Cannes The Bling Ring Photo Call.JPEG-0cf6b


David Neary eavesdrops on the Danish, gets berated by a Mexican, shares a boat with Metallica and hangs out with three of a decade’s worth of celebrity crushes. It’s tough in Cannes…


The rains had poured and poured like streamers at a Jay Gatsby party as Cannes opened on Wednesday night. Two days later my socks are still drying in the bathroom. But Thursday morning my whole body was still dampened from the long umbrellaless search for a taxi the night before, so curling up under the sheets to dry off seemed like a far better idea than heading straight for Cannes to catch François Ozon’s latest Jeune & Jolie. From what I hear, I didn’t miss much.

Not that it would have mattered had I arisen on time, an electrical fault meant a 90-minute wait for the eight-minute train to take me into Cannes. The rain was barely a faint drizzle when I got to the Palais, which was mobbed with new arrivals to the festival. We had had it easy the day before…

Caught between screenings I opted to attend the press conference for Heli, which had just had its official premiere that morning but had screened for the press to positively mixed reviews the night before. Director Amat Escalante spoke long and passionately about his film’s depictions of violence, while deflecting some roundabout abuse from a French critic who complimented him on his depiction of rural life despite being ‘a bourgeois’. Only in France. The press were conspicuous in their absence; a day earlier reporters had been practically stabbing one another with pens to get into the Great Gatsby Q&A, but here the room was barely a quarter full. Even in this Vatican of cinephilia the queues for the multiplexes dwarf the queues for the art house films. If it can happen at Cannes, it can happen anywhere.

An interview had been lined up for me with Northern Irish director Brian Kirk (The Tudors, Game of Thrones), in town to dig up a distributor for his upcoming sci-fi romance Passengers, which has Keanu Reeves attached as its star. More on that interview elsewhere later, but it’s worth noting the interview was on a boat docked in the harbour. Alone and waiting for the interview to begin, I mumbled to myself about being ‘on a boat’, but it just doesn’t carry the same majesty when not shouted at someone. Disembarking the three-storeyed floating palace, I overheard another journalist arriving for his ‘Metallica interview’. I now get to tell people semi-erroneously that I have been on a boat with Metallica, so yeah, there’s that.

Refuelling, I was forced to spend €10 on a plate of pasta in a bar along the promenade. Outside, a man in a convincing Toxic Avenger costume danced with his mop to raise awareness for video nasty legends Troma, who have their first film in years, Return to Nuke ’Em High, playing during the festival. Cannes and Troma; together at last.

‘OK, this is a stupid question, right,’ began the American girl behind me in the queue for The Bling Ring, ‘but is there popcorn inside?’ This was the moment I realised I was in the wrong queue. After a realigning myself I waited amongst the press for nearly two hours just to get into Sofia Coppola’s new film, opening Un Certain Regard. In the meantime we were treated to blaring music from the film’s soundtrack to pass the time. Unfortunately, it was the same two tracks on a loop, leaving a few hundred people feeling like they were a subject of controversy in Zero Dark Thirty. When said songs featured during the film, bitter grunts were audible in corners of the theatre, many patrons still harbouring the audio scars.

Un Certain Regard jury head Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) introduced his jury, amongst them Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and Ludivine Sagnier (Swimming Pool). Sagnier wore a dress so canary yellow that all across France canaries were dropping dead in their cages from the shame of being not quite canary yellow enough. When Coppola and her cast, amongst them Emma Watson (who nearly Jennifer Lawrenced herself ascending the steps to the podium, but recovered gracefully) took to the stage, I suddenly realised that I was in the same room with three of a decade’s worth of celebrity crushes – Zhang, Sagnier, Watson. How often does that happen?! Isla Fisher, in town for The Great Gatsby, still eludes my eye – 10-year old me’s heart beats only for Shannon from Home & Away.

The Bling Ring is an entertaining turn from Coppola, with some light comedy sprinkled into its rich girls gone bad storyline. Sadly, it’s as vapid as its central characters, and runs out of ideas long before it is over.

There was only time to gargle a quick espresso (fifth of the day) before the 10pm screening of competition film A Touch of Sin, from Chinese director Jia Zhangke. A hyper-violent quadrilogy of short films making pointed commentary on the state of modern China and the carnage brewing within it, it loses itself after the brilliant first tale and overstays its welcome. Still, if I find a more jaw-dropping metaphor in a film this year than a Chinese businessman beating a woman across the head with a slab of 100 yuan notes until she agrees to sell him sex, I’ll be very surprised.

Taking the late bus home, I conversed with fellow passengers about the films they had seen, only to be berated by a Mexican for having liked Mexico’s competition entry Heli. No satisfying some folks.

Friday morning the sun was splitting the pavement, but terrified of another turn for the worse in the weather I was sure to pack bulky waterproof gear I would inevitably never need. Once pissed on, twice shy.

Having missed the morning screening of Le Passé (The Past), the latest from Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), I was doomed to be landed in conversation after conversation with people who had caught the then-frontrunner. I decided to ease my suffering by escaping to one of the screenings running at the time, the out-of-competition special selection Stop the Pounding Heart. And now let us never speak of that film again.

Queuing for my next film, I could only stand there and listen-in fruitlessly as four Danish critics engaged in fiery debate about Spring Breakers. I really wanted to join in, but my Danish doesn’t extend beyond ‘tak’ meaning ‘thank you’ and ‘Spring Breakers’ meaning ‘Spring Breakers’.

Playing in Un Certain Regard, Miele (Honey) is the directorial debut of Italian actress Valeria Golino, best known for playing Ramada in the Hot Shots! and Hot Shots! Part Deux. A drama about a beautiful loner who assists the terminally ill to commit suicide, for a price, Miele is finely written, beautifully shot and features two superb central performances. It is sure to be one of this year’s best first-time films. Awkward laughter descended on the audience however when a fade to black at the film’s close was greeted with a huge round of applause, which was then followed by five more minutes of the film. No one was certain whether to clap or not when the end finally did come. Good thing a few tweaks can be made before wider release!

It was a revolving door at the Debussy theatre, leaving Miele to go straight into Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest, Like Father, Like Son. It is a magnificent tragicomedy about a couple faced with an impossible decision when they learn that their six-year-old son was switched at birth – meeting their real son and his family, the question arises of whether the two families will perform a swap. Heartbreaking, gently handled and beautiful to behold, it is one of the director’s finest films, and a major forerunner at the festival right now. With Steven Spielberg chairing the jury, there is likely to be a boost for a film that so adeptly captures the innocence and humour of children. The director of E.T. will no doubt find himself swooning.

Tears carefully wiped off faces, the critics left the cinema, leaving behind a few select individuals who needed more time to weep. The competition is heating up, and we’re still only a third of the way there.


Check out David Neary’s previous diary entries:

Cannes Diary: Day 1
David Neary brushes shoulders with the stars and an umbrella salesman at Cannes.


Cannes Diary: Day 1



David Neary brushes shoulders with the stars and an umbrella salesman at Cannes.

It was a damp start to the 66th Cannes Film Festival  the deluge began just as the stars began to walk the red carpet into the Grand Théâtre Lumière in the Palais des Festivals.

But it had been a bright, if cloudy day up to that point; the town was busy with the arrivals of film industry professionals, up-and-coming filmmakers, over-enthusiastic cinephiles and journalists from all corners and all media.

Navigating the Palais, an unending stream of free espresso as my only fuel,  I found myself waiting with the photographers and TV cameras outside the Great Gatsby press conference – which was already full to the brim inside. The slightest flicker of a celebrity approaching and several score cameras leapt into the air like the alert heads of meerkats when a predator is suspected to be approaching. Carey Mulligan walked by – radiant, in couturest of black outfits – and I thought for a moment I might faint from her beauty; actually the press corps have been waiting so long that the heat their bodies is emitting is now overwhelming. As Leonardo DiCaprio passed by, I slipped out of the crowd before I was crushed to death by a flurry of camera bags and tripods.

Eager not to miss Gatsby, lest I not have anything to talk about to anyone for the rest of the Festival, I placed myself at the top of the queue for the afternoon press screening. The tiered system of press passes meant that despite my punctuality a few hundred more premiere journos got let in ahead of me. I whiled away the time planning my schedule for the coming days and chuckling at the solitary brown pigeon strutting his stuff on the red carpet, and the burly security type singularly failing to scare it off.

The Great Gatsby, the opening film of the festival, is an attractive if soulless venture that eschews much of the subtlety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel in order to focus almost solely on the central love affair, creating a hybrid of Gatsby and the director Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! A short duration into the film I had to change my 3D glasses, which were malfunctioning and distorting the images. The Parisienne to my right texted throughout the film. Remember folks, if it can happen at a screening in Cannes, it can happen anywhere!

The press screenings over, the jury could begin to assemble for the Opening Ceremony. Steven Spielberg, head of the jury this year, walked past sporting the most stylish flatcap the movie industry may have ever seen. In honour of his presence, Jaws is being screened at the open-air Cinéma de la Plage next week, and the theme music from Jurassic Park can be heard playing in the men’s room. The press attempted to bait the jury on a variety of issues, including Spielberg and fellow jury member Ang Lee’s “rivalry” since Lee took home the Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi over Spielberg for Lincoln, but the jury members were putting up a unified front. Christoph Waltz seemed delighted with all the attention. As the rains began to fall and the wind began to whip them up, Nicole Kidman looked less than comfortable on the red carpet, clinging to her umbrella and joking with reporters that she felt she might blow away like Mary Poppins. It remains to be seen what they thought of Luhrmann’s film.

On the other side of the Palais, arrogant and Irish, I queued in the now undeniably lashing rain for the press screening of Mexican drama Heli, while rebuffing the offers of quick-witted salesmen trying to pass me on overpriced umbrellas. In retrospect I should have coughed up.

Heli, from Mexican director Amat Escalante, whose film Sangre screened at Cannes out of competition in 2005, is a superb work. Hard-hitting from its grim opening shot and the barbaric conclusion to its first scene, it is also often witty and tender. But as a story about a drug deal gone bad in a rural town, there is not much room for happiness, and Heli features some truly brutal scenes of violence and torture. Twice the audience unleashed gasps of horror, which the film earned with moments of despicable, believable cruelty.

Outside again, and the attendees of the Gatsby premiere looked bedraggled in their waterlogged gowns and tuxes; the rain thundering down now. This is the price you pay to look fabulous in a Mediterranean town still suffering the unpredictable weather of late spring.

Hopefully the rain is the only washout that will hit Cannes this year. But there’s still plenty of time yet for something else to go wrong…


‘Out There’ wins at LIT & prepares for Cannes

Conor Marren scared to look behind him

Dunsany Productions post apocalyptic horror film Out There has the best industry short filmaward at the LIT Film festival in Limerick. The festival took place during the weekend of the 1113 April.  Randal Plunkett , Lord Dunsany, the director and producer of the film, accepted the award with line producer Alan Byrne during the awards ceremony on Saturday the 13th. The award was for best industry short film and is the second award the film has received in the last few weeks.  The film also received four other nominations by LIT including best director, best camera, best lighting and best drama.

The film stars Conor Marren (True –D) and Irish sensation Emma Eliza Regan (Darkness on the Edge of Town, Love Eternal). The film follows Rob (Marren) who wakes up deep in the woods having receiving a head wound. Not knowing how he got there and suffering from temporary amnesia, he begins to re trace his steps trying to discover what has happened to him and his girlfriend Jane (Regan). His journey through the calm Irish countryside turns out to be far more dangerous then he could have possibly imagined.

Out There was filmed completely on the Dunsany Castle Estate in Co. Meath during the spring of 2012.

Out There whose success continues has just been accepted to play Short Film Corner as part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, taking place from the 15 26 of May. The film is also to screen at other international film festivals which include Imagine: Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival,  Skopje Film Festival,  Macedonia, Dundee Horror Film Festival,  Scotland, Fright Night Film Fest in Kentucky USA, which is the largest genre festival in mid America . The  film will also Panic Fest in the  USA where it has been nominated for a HATCHET AWARD for best short film.

The trailer for Out There is available on the link below

Official Facebook page


Cannes 2012 Line-up Announced


The full line-up for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival was announced with an impressive cast of directors bringing their new films to to compete, including Jacques Audiard, Lee Daniels, Carlos Reygadas, Andrew Dominik, Abbas Kiarostami, Wes Anderson, Hong Sang-soo, and Ken Loach.


Opening night

Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson


Amour, Michael Haneke
The Angels’ Share, Ken Loach
Baad el mawkeaa, Yousry Nasrallah
Beyond the Hills, Cristian Mungiu
Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg
Holy Motors, Leos Carax
The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg
Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik
In Another Country, Hong Sang-soo
In the Fog, Sergei Loznitsa
Lawless, John Hillcoat
Like Someone in Love, Abbas Kiarostami
Mud, Jeff Nichols
On the Road, Walter Salles
The Paperboy, Lee Daniels
Paradies: Liebe, Ulrich Seidl
Post tenebras lux, Carlos Reygadas
Reality, Matteo Garrone
Rust and Bone, Jacques Audiard
Taste of Money, Im Sang-soo
You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet, Alain Resnais

Out of competition

Hemingway & Gellhorn, Philip Kaufman
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
Me and You, Bernardo Bertolucci

Un Certain Regard

7 Days in Havana, Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia
Suleiman, Juan Carlos Tabio, Gaspar Noe, Laurent Cantet
11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate, Koji Wakamatsu
Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin
Confession of a Child of the Century, Sylvie Verheyde
Despues de Lucia, Michel Franco
La Pirogue, Moussa Toure
La Playa, Juan Andres Arango
Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan
Le grand soir, Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern
Les Chevaux de Dieu, Nabil Ayouch
Loving Without Reason, Joachim Lafosse
Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia
Mystery, Lou Ye
Student, Darezhan Omirbayev
Trois mondes, Catherine Corsini
White Elephant, Pablo Trapero

Midnight screenings

Dario Argento’s Dracula, Dario Argento
The Legend of Love & Sincerity, Japan, Takashi Miike

Special screenings

A musica segundo, Tom Jobim, Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
The Central Park Five, Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Der Mull im Garten Eden, Fatih Akin
Journal de France, Claudine Nougaret, Raymond Depardon
Les Invisibles, Sebastien Lifshitz
Mekong Hotel, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, Laurent Bouzereau
Villegas, Gonzalo Tobal

Closing night film

Therese D, Claude Miller


MIPDoc Co-Production Challenge

The Co-Production Challenge is a pitching session which takes place during MIPDoc, Cannes on 2–3 April 2011.

This competition sees producers pitching new documentaries to a jury of leading commission editors consisting of:
– Chairperson, Hamish Mykura, Channel 4 Head of Documentaries
– Iikka Vehkalahti, Commissioning Editor, Documentary for YLE TV2
– Karen Michael, Commissioning Editor for ARTE France
– Axel Arno, Commissioning Editor for SVT – Sveriges Television AB

The pitching session takes place in front of an audience of broadcasters, producers and distributors. The winning entry will receive; editorial coverage during MIPDoc 2011 and in the Realscreen Magazine post-show issue; a one-on-one meeting with a jury member during the event; free entry to MIPDoc 2012; free submission of their winning programme to the MIPDoc 2012 digital library; a 2-day pass to the 2012 Realscreen Summit, in Washington D.C. and a 1-year subscription to Realscreen Magazine.

The deadline for submitions is February 25, 2011. Pitch entries should include elaborated descriptions of the project and videos/teasers showcasing the project on screen are encouraged.

For details on how to apply visit


WCF congratulate winner of the Palme d’or

The Berlinale and World Cinema Fund (WCF) congratulate Thai director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, on winning the Palme d’or in Cannes for his latest film. Loong Boonmee Raleuk Chaat (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), which received financial support from the WCF, took home the top prize at the festival on 23rd May 2010.

In the Semaine de la critique section, another WCF-funded film, Bi, Don’t Be Afraid by Vietnamese director Phan Dang Di, won the SACD Prize for Best Screenplay and the ACID/CCAS Support Award.

Since its establishment in 2004, the WCF has awarded production and distribution funding to a total of 70 projects chosen from 1165 submissions from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central and South East Asia, and the Caucasus.

The World Cinema Fund is an initiative of the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Berlin International Film Festival in cooperation with the Goethe Institute. For more information visit


MOFILM Cannes Video Contest

The Mofilm Cannes 2010 video contest is asking filmmakers to create an ad for AT&T, Bud Light, Coke, Coke Light, Coke Zero, Kodak, Lego, Logitech or Nokia.

The winner of each brand’s competition will join Mofilm at the Cannes Lions Festival, meet high-profile filmmakers, and showcase their work to some of the biggest brands in the world. Prizes differ per category and include cash prizes and various products.

You must be over 16 years of age to enter. The competition is open to all countries and it’s permitted to upload multiple entries. Ads have to be uploaded by 7th June 2010. Go to for details.


The Class (Entre les murs)

entrelemurs DIR: Laurent Cantet • WRI: François Bégaudeau • PRO: Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta • DOP: Pierre Milon • ED: Robin Campillo • CAST: François Bégaudeau, Nassim Amrabt, Laura Baquela, Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi

The Class (Entre les murs) is a drama set in a Parisian inner-city state school. It mainly centres on a French literature class in the school. ‘Entre les Murs’ literally means between the walls; the film is set in the classroom and, as we rarely leave the classroom, most of the action happens here. The film is based on the book of the same name by former teacher François Bégaudeau (who appears in the film as the teacher François Marin). The book is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by Bégaudeau’s own experiences as a teacher. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the first French film to do so in 21 years.

The film follows François Marin for a school year as he teaches French literature to his students and tries to inspire them with his subject. The students of the class are played by real school children and the banter between them and their teacher is very realistic. The shaky camera adds to the whole documentary feeling of the film. This is a very realistic portrayal of a year in a classroom, seeing how a teacher struggles to make his students interested in the subject he’s teaching. Despite some students’ obvious apathy, he doesn’t stop trying. I’m sure that any teachers watching the film would be able to identify with Marin’s frustration with his students.

But do keep in mind, this isn’t a French Dangerous Minds or Dead Poets Society. Like in real life, some students respond to the teacher and some don’t. These are all individuals who will end up going down different paths in life – the film doesn’t end with the students carrying Marin out on their shoulders.

The film is an interesting concept and worth watching. However, I do think that if I wasn’t so long out of the classroom myself I would have found the film more interesting or enjoyable. I have to admit that at times I felt like I had seen all this before, that I knew these people and that I’d even had classes with them. But perhaps that shows just how authentic this film actually is.

Nessa O’Hara
(See biog here)

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Class
is released on 27th February 2009
The Class – Official Website


Cannes 2008

Cannes 2008
Cannes 2008

Cannes Irish: The Irish in the marketplace and Steve McQueen’s Hunger (16th May 2008): Read here
Three Irish Industry Events in Cannes (19th May 2008): Read here
Europe Day in Cannes (21st May 2008): Read here
Producers Network in Cannes (22nd May 2008): Read here
Cannes Awards – A Gleeful Invasion (26th May 2008): Read here

See Cannes official website here


Yes, I Cannes

Cannes 2007
Cannes 2007

Yes, I Cannes

Lir Mac Cárthaigh talks to producer Jackie Larkin of Newgrange Pictures about the Irish experience at world’s best-known film festival.

Cannes may have the biggest market of any festival, but is it the best?

In my limited experience Cannes is certainly one of the best markets. It’s the one market on everyone’s diary, whether they’re from Europe, the US, Australia or Asia, so basically everyone descends on this small town for the two weeks of the festival.

Could you briefly outline a typical day in Cannes for an Irish producer?

I don’t know if there’s actually a typical day as such for an Irish producer. A lot of your meetings are scheduled in advance so, in an ideal world, you’ve pretty much lined up a number of meetings per day. But typically this means racing up and down the Croisette as you’ll generally have to go to peoples offices rather than them coming to you!

What is the role of the Irish Pavilion – is it an industry focal point, a social meeting place, or a bit of both?

The Irish Pavilion is both an industry focal point and a social meeting place. It’s situated right beside the Palais, so it couldn’t be in a better location. The staff there are very accommodating and it’s a very useful base to have. It’s often used for meetings but is also a base for all of the Irish attending, so there’s somewhat of a social aspect also.

Is it all about the market, or is there time to see a film or two as well?

It’s not all about the market and of course time permitting you should aim to see a couple of films. There’s such a wide range of independent films screenings, some of which you might never get an opportunity to see again, or certainly not for a year or so. It’s always a difficulty though, trying to balance meetings with going to screenings.

What advice would you give to an Irish producer visiting Cannes for the first time?

You have to officially register with the market to have any type of access to the market and various events. If you’re not officially registered you’re very limited to where you can go in terms of the Palais, the International Village and any of the screenings. It’s also important to register with the Irish Pavilion. As I said, they’re in a great location and it’s a very useful base to have when setting up some of your meetings.

The most important piece of advice though is not to go with your expectations too high. If you come away having had three good meetings, then that’s a result. The important thing is to get a sense of the market in general, who’s selling what, what kind of product is out there, so you are informed about who are the most suitable sales agents, distributors, co-producers and financiers out there for your project.

What projects will you be bringing to Cannes this year?
We’ve just completed the film Kings, which will be screening at the market in Cannes. We’ll also be bringing along two other projects, Stella Days and Happy Ever Afters that are planned for production later this year. Along with that we will bring some of our projects in development as we’re seeking co-development partners for some of the bigger budget projects.

Newgrange Pictures official website
Cannes Film Festival official website