Cannes: from Crimea to zombies

So today, 72 Cannes International Film Festival begins. Of course, first of all, we are interested in Ukrainian films presented.

So, in French Riviera Ukraine will be represented by Evge – the feature-length debut of the Crimean Tatar director Nariman Aliev in “Un Certain Regard” nomination and a short film by Dekel Berenson Anna (co-production of Ukraine, Israel, Great Britain) in the respective nomination.

Both pictures in one way or another address the topic of the war. Anna tells the story of a lonely middle-aged mother struggling for a decent life in war-torn eastern Ukraine

Канни: від Криму до зомбі

Shot from the film Anna

Dekel Berenson was born in Israel, now lives in the UK. His short films The Girls Were Doing Nothing and Ashmina featured at dozens of festivals, including BFI in London. Quite interesting that at the insistence of the director, Anna was created entirely in Ukraine, in the Ukrainian language and by the Ukrainian team: operator Volodymyr Ivanov, art director Kara Balayan and film editor Yegor Troyanovsky, the leading roles were performed by Svitlana Barandych, Anastasia Vyazovska, Lina Chornodub.

As for Nariman Aliev, he was born in Petrivka village of Krasnohvardiyskyi district of Crimea in 1992. He studied at the Institute of Screen Arts and at the Kyiv National University named after Karpenko-Karyi. He began his directorial career with the short film trilogy Crimean Stories: To Return with the Dawn (Tan Atqanda Qaytmaq 2013), I love you (Seni Sevem, 2014), Without You (Sensiz, 2015). The last picture was selected for the youth film competition Generation 14+ in Berlin.

In his scenarios, Aliev will dwell on the same topic – the Crimean Tatar family at the time of the crisis. In To Return with the Dawn a son with a scandal and a fight fled from an elderly father to a big world. I love you is a short story about the hopeless love of the Slavic girl and the young Crimean Tatar man. In Without You two men, also not without quarrels, return to the Crimean countryside to celebrate the birthday of their deceased brother.

Evge in a certain sense is the antithesis of these early works: for the first time it was filmed outside the Crimea, with landscapes of which the director is obsessed; instead of escaping – return; instead of separating from each other, son and father are gradually converging.

And the impetus is given, in fact, by death. Nazim, a Crimean Tatar volunteer, had died in a battle with the occupants in the Donetsk region. His father, Mustafa (Akhtem Seitablayev), arrived in Kyiv to take his body. The younger brother Alim (Remzi Bilyalov, director’s cousin) joined him – for now, he’s a regular Kyiv student. Father wants to bury Nazim in Crimea at any cost. Alim doesn’t understand this desire and showing little enthusiasm initially takes part in the trip solely because of the aggressive persistence of his father.

Канни: від Криму до зомбі

Shot from the film To Return with the Dawn

The film begins with two contrasting pictures: the idyllic landscape of the Crimean coast near Sivash, the blue boat, the morning sea, the light breeze – and almost immediately the corridor of the morgue with a flashing light, under which Alim sits, waiting for his father to solve the problem with the transfer of the body.

This way the film evolves – with the help of visual, emotional, intonational contrasts. It could hardly be anything else, with such blend of genres – road-movie plus psychological drama. Aliev and his co-scriptwriter Marysia Nikitiuk were inspired by the Hungarian drama Son of Saul (2015), in which a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camp, in spite of impossible circumstances, tries to bury a boy who is not even his son. Here, however, the situation is quite different. Mustafa must not simply bury Nazim – but also to do it in his native land, albeit seized by the occupiers. Also, he has to pass on to Alim the biggest and the most important burden – the status of the head of the lineage.

Actually, the film is set on two key components.

The first one is an impeccable directorial and dramaturgical structure thought over to the last millimetre by Aliev. All the conflicts and adventures, all the minor characters, all the plot complications are right there where they belong, combined in an ideal rhythm. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that the road-movie needs extremely precise post-production, and Aliev in this sense manifests really a non-debutant skill.

The second equally important element is the duet of the main actors. Akhtem Seitablayev at the beginning is a harsh and invulnerable patriarch that is usual to him, the one that only in a morgue allows himself to shed a single tear. Bilyalov, on the contrary, acts on contrast – an infantile young man from the capital, a disoriented student. However, gradually they exchange roles and states. Seitablayev develops a figuratively and psychologically interesting transformation of Mustafa into a weak, dying man burdened with guilt before the sons, while Bilyalov – not without falling into a melodrama, which is allowed for beginners – takes a line of painful but necessary growing up.

This way, we, as the audience, are lead to an emotionally deafening and at the same time a cinematographically perfect final.

In general, 16 more pictures will compete with Evge in “Un Certain Regard”. This program is specifically designed to encourage developing cinematographies, as well as to support various types of experimenters. For Ukraine, this section is lucky – it was in “Un Certain Regard” last year that Sergei Loznitsa received The Best Director prize for Donbass.

For now, our director will be competing with such difficult authors as Spaniard Albert Serra (Liberté) and Frenchman Bruno Dumont (Joan of Arc). The first one, in particular, became famous with as gloomy as the insane drama The Death of Louis XIV (2016); the second one also, to a certain moment, made slow, unhappy drama for which he received prizes in Cannes but suddenly in a moment he switched to musicals – in this very genre Joan of Arc is made.

Канни: від Криму до зомбі

Shot from the film A Hidden Life

Of course, the maximum attention will be drawn to the Palme d’Or – main competition. As always, there will be plenty of big names. Belgian duo, the masters of social cinema, Dardenne brothers already have two “Golden Palms”. This time, they filmed a thriller-study on radical Islamism Young Ahmed, in it, the schoolboy wants to kill his own teacher. Another one is a two-time winner – the British film director and part-time Trotskyist Ken Loach. He will show the next accusation of capitalism’s vices, Sorry We Missed You. The palm’s winner for a large and dizzyingly beautiful Tree of Life (2011), American Terrence Malick, presents unexpected for his fans historical drama A Hidden Life. It is about the Austrian objector  Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight on the side of the Nazis and was executed. The toast of Cannes Pedro Almodóvar has brought already the sixth picture with Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz called Pain and Glory. This melodrama with obviously autobiographical motifs is a kind of solid flashback of filmmaker’s life, whose glory days are already behind.

“Golden boy” of Cannes, who in his thirties already has 8 feature-length films, and most of them won prizes, a native of Quebec Xavier Dolan will compete with the gay drama Matthias & Maxime. The Italian Marco Bellocchio has diametrically opposed aesthetics. He like Loach, even in his eighties remains a committed leftist. However, in contrast to Loach, he has no Cannes awards – although he won in Berlin and Venice. In French Riviera Bellocchio will present The Traitor a story about mafia – in fact, it’s about how the world finally found out about the existence of Cosa Nostra and what came out of it.

Well, of course, the loudest hysteria will unfold around two American premiers. The first one is a zombie comedy (you’ve read it correctly!) The Dead Don’t Die. Director – the iconic Jim Jarmusch, who has assembled for this phantasmagoria all his favourite actors the way it pleases your eye: Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Sarah Driver, and Adam Driver.

Канни: від Криму до зомбі

Shot from the film The Dead Don’t Die

Well, the second one is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Also a bunch of celebrities: Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis, Emile Hirsch. But here’s the case when people will watch a film because of the director. And his name is Quentin Tarantino. He came up with a typical Tarantino story: Hollywood, crazy 1969, two losers – TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) want to conquer the big screen. But here’s the trouble: they are also neighbours of the actress Sharon Tate (wife of director Roman Polanski), who was brutally murdered by members of the Charles Manson’s cult. Menson himself will also appear on the screen. In a word, an explosive mixture of irony, violence and black-black humour is at your service.

Of course, you can write about Cannes a lot. But these are probably the most anticipated events. The last thing to add is that the premiere of the Evge will take place on May 22, and Anna on May 23.

As for the prize winners, they will be named on Friday, May 25.

Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com

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