Laura Poitras' Risk among the major nonfiction films in Cannes; Thomas Piketty announces doc on his remarkable economics bestseller
The Cannes Film Festival is not known for its devotion to documentary film particularly, its attention focused primarily on les vedettes du cinéma et les auteurs. It must be noted though that Asif Kapadia's Amy premiered here last year before going on to win the Academy Award.
There are no documentaries in the running this year for the Palme d'or, the festival's highest honor, but the festival is attempting to pay closer attention to the nonfiction world by presenting the L'Oeil d'or [Golden Eye] to the top documentary film at Cannes. The award was created only last year.
This year 17 documentaries are in the running for l'Oeil d'or, including Risk, Laura Poitras' follow up to citizenfour, her Academy-Award winning film on Edward Snowden.
Risk focuses on another highly controversial figure, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Poitras is in Cannes for the premiere, while Assange remains in Ecuador's embassy in London, where he took refuge over three years ago to avoid possible prosecution in Sweden. Authorities there have been investigating him for an alleged sexual assault.
L'Oeil d'or is presented by the unfortunately-acronymed [at least for English speakers] SCAM -- the Société civile des auteurs multimedia, the French guild responsible for collecting and distributing royalties for "multimedia authors."
The award comes with a 5,000 € prize.
Among the other documentaries competing for the top honor are Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens. The film, which will air next year on HBO, explores the relationship between the famous mother and daughter who between them have starred in some of the biggest Hollywood films of the last 60 years.
During a Q&A on Saturday at the American Pavilion in Cannes, Carrie Fisher spoke entertainingly -- as she always does -- about her relationship with her mother. Of Debbie she said, "My mother is a very bossy woman... but she gave some of that up" as a result of needing more help from Carrie as she faced health struggles in recent years.
"She's rallied now. She's much, much better," Fisher said of her mom. "She looks fantastic." She joked about her mother's secret to maintaining a youthful appearance: "She drinks baby bat blood."
Another film that touches on cinema history, after a fashion, is also in competition for L'Oeil d'or. The Cinema Travelers takes viewers on a wondrous journey with India's traveling cinemas, which bring movies to "far-flung reaches" of the country. The itinerant screenings are held in tents erected in the midst of carnivals, using film projectors that are in constant danger of breaking down. The film in a certain sense is like a documentary companion to Cinema Paradiso, in that it celebrates the magic of movies.
Nonfictionfilm.com will be speaking with Abraham and Madheshiyam on Sunday about their film. NFF will also speak on Sunday with Fisher Stevens regarding Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Look for in-depth pieces on those two films.
More films in the running for L'Oeil d'or:
>Bernadette Lafont et Dieu créa la femme libre [Bernadette Lafont, and God Created the Free Woman]
de Esther Hoffenberg (France)
de Eryk Rocha (Brésil)
>Close encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond
de Pierre Filmon (France)
>Et la femme créa Hollywood
de Clara et Julia Kuperberg (France)
de B. Jacquot, G. Seligmann, P. Mérigeau (France)
de Jim Jarmusch (États-Unis)
>Hissein Habré, une tragédie tchadienne
de Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Tchad)
de Rithy Panh (Cambodge)
>L'Ultima Spiaggia (La Dernière plage)
de Thanos Anastopoulos et Davide del Degan (Italie)
>Les Vies de Thérèse [The Lives of Thérèse]
de Sébastien Lifshitz
>Midnight Return : The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey
de Sally Sussman (États-Unis)
>Voyage à travers le cinéma français
de Bertrand Tavernier
de Jonathan Littell (France)
Justin Pemberton will direct the film, which is expected to begin filming this summer. Matthew Metcalfe is producing the feature-length doc, a New Zealand-French co-production [General Film Corporation and UPSIDE].
Piketty, whose book on economic inequality became a surprise hit around the world, attended the event on the Croisette.
"That's an incredible adventure," Piketty told NFF of the documentary project. "This was entirely unexpected. But in the end I'm very, very excited about it."
Pemberton told NFF he is finishing work on another documentary but will train his focus on Capital in the 21st Century imminently. No release has been projected as yet. A press release described the overall thrust of the film:
Capital in the 21st Century will hold a mirror to history showing us that the post-World War II economic golden era that media and society so often reference is more of an aberration than the default setting for world capitalism. Like the book, the film will ask us all to reflect on the direction the world is traveling and what the questions we all must face are.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.