Alongside heart wrenching tales of nationhood and exile, (It Must Be Heaven – Elia Suleiman, The Cordillera of Dreams – Patricio Guzman), sumptuously romantic tales of love (Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodovar), genre riffs (The Wild Goose Lake – Dia Yinan) and cinematic mayhem (Bacurau – Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, Lux Æterna – Gaspar Noe) for the most part it seemed that the 72nd Festival de Cannes was full of zombies, zombies everywhere.
Zombies on the brain
It all started with the brain-hungry, coffee swilling undead of Jim Jarmusch’s opening film The Dead Don’t Die, before switching locales to a greenhouse where Jessica Hausner’s brilliant botanical body snatcher Little Joe came to life. As filmmakers the world over were offering up wildly varied and creative responses to the most pressing, urgent issues of our times, the undead (or versions thereof) kept coming. Bertrand Bonello’s sumptuous tale of teen angst Zombi Child one day, the heartbreaking sleepwalkers in Mati Diop’s Grand Prix winning Atlantics the next.
Three of my absolute favourite films in competition were directed by women and took out prizes: Grand Prix - Mati Diop with Atlantics; Best Screenplay - Céline Sciamma with Portrait Of A Lady On Fire; Best Actress - Emily Beecham in Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe.
A family-friendly film festival, finally
Outside of the cinema more brilliant ladies were leading the charge to make life easier for parents in the industry. Our very own former Melbourne Film Festival artistic director Michelle Carey and her colleagues at Parenting at Film Festivals group made Cannes a family-friendly space with their wonderful Le Ballon Rouge scheme, supporting film professionals in attendance with babies and young children.
And who better to preside over all these fantastic films and revolutionary changes than the one and only Agnès Varda. In a fitting and heartfelt tribute, a production still from Agnès Varda's debut feature La Pointe Courte loomed large over the festival this year, adorning everything from shopfronts, screening schedules and the Palais des festivals high above those famous red steps – #vivavarda indeed!