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Cannes '12: The Camera d’Or Competition

villegas cannesWhen all is said and done, everyone will talk about the rain at Cannes this year. Three days of rain (so far), including a storm with raging winds that caused some screenings to be cancelled, and one of the cinemas is, in fact, a huge tent-like structure on the roof of another building.

You don't want it full of people with high winds outside.

One of those cancelled screenings was the premiere of Gonzalo Tobal's Villegas, a first feature playing out of competition. That is, out of the main competition. The film is one of 25 films vying for the coveted Camera d’Or prize (for best first feature film).

Some of these first features have already had premieres at US festivals.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) and Room 237 by Rodney Ascher premiered at Sundance in January, while Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot won SXSW’s grand prize. (Both Beasts and Loot also played in New York at New Directors/New Films).

Among those films premiering in Cannes are: 

  • Los Salvajes, by Alejandro Fadel, playing in Critics’ Week, about a group of teens who, having escaped from a reform school, are left to their own devices as they make their way through a rural Argentinian landscape.
  • Antiviral, by Brandon Cronenberg (yes, son of David) which details a society gone so over the top in celebrity adoration that people pay big money to have the stars' germs injected into their bodies
  • Katrine Boorman’s love letter to her father, director John Boorman, Me and Me Dad – a home movie homage/critique of the filmmaker, his work, and his family

beasts cannesVillegas, mentioned above, was finally screened on Monday morning, and another screening has been added on Wednesday May 23 at 10pm; this one in the Buñuel Theater - tucked away inside the main "Palais" building, so no worries about being blown away.

Now the challenge is to get the word out about the added screenings.

This was director Tobal's worry when we spoke at an after-screening drink at the soggy Argentine pavilion.

He also talked about his creative path in making the film.

In an unusual beginning to a project, he told me that he didn't have the story down (which concerns two cousins, returning home for their grandfather's funeral, and struggling with their relationship to one another now that they are adults, as well as each one struggling with their own path towards adulthood). He knew, though, the tone he wanted the film to have.

Villegas is a real town in Argentina, and Tobal knew he wanted to use that location for a film - a small inland town with farms and ranches.

It was both the landscape of the area and the building structures of the farm (there is a lovely scene inside a silo filled with grain) that he wanted to incorporate into the film. And he knew he wanted to work with Esteban Bigiardi and Esteban Lamothe, his two lead actors.

About five years ago, when Tobal's own grandfather died while Tobal was living in Paris, the story of going back to the family started to take shape.

Katrine Boorman grew up with her subject, so the idea for her documentary was always in her head. She brought the celebrated filmmaker onstage as she introduced the film. Boorman is a Cannes veteran who has twice won the festival's directing award -- known here as the prix de la mise en scene -- in 1970 for Leo the Last and in 1998 for The General.

After thanking her crew, and the rest of the family, the filmmaker's father took the microphone to tell us that he told his daughter that she could make the film, interview him, and ask him anything -- as long as she didn't show it to anyone.

With this screening in the Cannes Classics section, I guess the cat is out of the bag.

[Marian Masone is Director, Festivals/Associate Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center]

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