By Gautaman Bhaskaran
The buzz about Cannes is already hot. With the 68th edition of what has become the world’s most sought-after film festival set on roll on May 13 and with the official selections to be announced in Paris towards the end of April, probable movie titles have begun to float.
The list of hopefuls gets longer by the day. For, every director worth his megaphone is eager to be seen on the Croisette, keen on showing his film to about 5,000 media men and women, and hundreds more from the cinema industry the world over, who are looking forward to analysing the movies — or buying them for their territories. If Cannes is renowned for its riveting pictures, the Festival also provides an important market.
So, it is not quite out of place to start the guessing game about the films that may be in. India’s Anurag Kashyap is a likely entrant with his Bombay Velvet. The director has been a great favourite of the Festival. His earlier Gangs of Wasseypur and Ugly played at Cannes — the first in a sidebar and the second as part of the A Certain Regard, the most important section after Competition.
If one were to go by the past choices that the Festival’s General-Delegate, Thierry Fremaux, made, Indian cinema has not been at the head of the race — with only the odd movie managing to get in.
If one were to look beyond India, Fremaux has managed to maintain a wonderful balance between the flashy American cinema and the more sedate, but substantive European fare. Asian movies, a good sprinkling of them, have also found a firm foothold in recent years.
The European probables include British director Stephen Frears’ Icon, Portuguese helmer Miguel Gomes’s Les Mille Et Une Nuits, Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs from Norway, Les Chevaliers Blancs by Belgian auteur Joachim Lafosse and The Lobster in the English language by Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos.
Here are some more from Europe. Thomas Vinterberg’s contribution may have two movies: the Hardy adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd and The Commune. Russia may well figure at Cannes with Francophonia (by Alexander Sokourov). Other likely contenders are One Floor Below from Romania, and the Italian master, Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre. He might have for company fellow Italian, Matteo Garrone with The Tale Of Tales.
The North American favourites seem to pointing to Gus Van Sant’s Sea Of Trees, Todd Haynes’ Carol and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special. Sean Penn’s The Last Face is also tipped for a Cannes soujourn. The Clan may arrive from Argentina.
The Asian basket may hold Love In Khon Kaen by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin from Taiwan, Taklub from the Philippines’s Brillante Mendoza, Our Little Sister by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, An by Naomi Kawase and Journey To The Shore by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (all three from Japan). There can be The Crossing from China’s John Woo.
What about Australia’s Macbeth, South Korea’s My Friendly Villains and Israel’s The Burglar? They seem to be nodding distances away from the French Riviera.
Finally, Serbia’s Emir Kusturica is wrapping up the shoot for his Sur La Voie Lactee, and Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight. These may be ready for — and in Cannes.
Gudiyam Caves And Cannes
Ramesh Yanthra’s 33-minute documentary, Gudiyam Caves: Stone Age Rock Shelters of South India, will screen at the Short Film Corner in the 68th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, running from May 13 to 24.
The Corner is an important segment of the Marche du Festival or Market, which in many ways has been instrumental in pushing the Festival on the French Riviera to reach the skies. (The Market is organised along with the Festival.) The two other most renowned European festivals in Berlin and Venice have suffered because they have not had any worthwhile markets.
Yanthra’s movie has been beautifully shot by V. Vasanthakumar, and he told me in Chennai the other day that he had used all kinds of cameras, including a helicam and even a mobile phone to shoot the documentary.
The film is a revelation of sorts. For not many even in Chennai, which is just 65km from the Gudiyam Caves, know that these exist. The documentary helps us understand the authenticity and beauty of the prehistoric Stone Age caves or shelters of South India.
As has been the case on many occasions, it needed a Westerner to discover, explore and write about the Caves. The British geologist, Robert Bruce Foote, investigated them for the first time in 1864 and documented them in the Geological Survey of India Memoir in 1873.
Later excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India near Gudiyam shed light on the rock caves and also led to the emergence of other facts. The region was occupied by the Acheulian people between 1.07 and 1.80 million years ago — the oldest known site in India today.
A movie like Yanthra’s can immensely help in spreading information about the Gudiyam Caves. Yanthra — who did fine arts — first came across the Caves during one of his study tours that involved sketching and painting. “I was amazed when I learnt that Palaeolithic men lived in those Caves 100,000 years ago”, the director said in the course of a chat with me.
He regretted that while the Caves were part of a reserve forest in Tamil Nadu, they were not protected by either the Archaeological Survey or the State Archaeology Department. “This unique prehistoric site would soon be damaged if human interference and vandalism go unchecked”, Yanthra felt. Anyone can walk around the Caves and even get under them. They look more like shelters with protruding roofs. Interestingly, the shelters are such that many people can live under them — the largest of them being able to accommodate 1000 men and women. They will not get wet even during the heaviest of rain!
The prehistoric folks who lived around the Gudiyam Caves were hunter-gatherers, and they had not even discovered fire then. So, they ate fruits, leaves and raw meat. They made weapons out of stones and rocks to kill animals.
“It will be sad if the Gudiyam Caves are left unprotected. A great part of India’s archaeological and geological history can vanish”, rues Yanthra. Undoubtedly so.
However, Yanthra’s work, backed by three years of hard work and dedication, may — when screened at Cannes — draw attention to the plight of the Gudiyam Caves. They now stand hoping for care and attention.
* Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 25 years, will be back on the Croisette this May. He may be e-mailed at [email protected]
LIKELY ENTRANT: Anurag Kashyap’s latest work.