Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Here are the 21 films up for the main award at Cannes: the Palme d'Or contenders

The top prize at the film festival will be handed out on Saturday night: meet the nominees

Penelope Cruz (centre) in Pedro Almodovar's 'Pain & Glory', one of the 21 films up for Cannes' top prize tonight 
Penelope Cruz (centre) in Pedro Almodovar's 'Pain & Glory', one of the 21 films up for Cannes' top prize tonight 

From a zombie flick starring Iggy Pop to a tale of Chinese gangsters who decide to take over a city, these are the films vying for the top prize at the Cannes film festival...

Will 2019 finally be the year a woman wins the Palme d'Or? Read more about that here. Also: we speak to Papicha director Mounia Meddour on why it took her five years to make her film.

The 21 contenders

1. 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood'

Quentin Tarantino reportedly worked for four months straight in the editing room to get his odyssey in as a late entry for Cannes. And it was worth every minute, if the rapturous reviews so far are anything to go by.

This panorama of 1969 has Brad Pitt as the stunt double to TV Western star Leonardo DiCaprio and takes in everything from Bruce Lee to the sinister tale of cult leader Charles Manson. Margot Robbie plays actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Manson's followers.

2. 'The Dead Don't Die'

The poster for Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy claims to have a "cast to wake the dead" – and they are not kidding. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover and Chloe Sevigny starred in the opening film alongside musicians Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and RZA.

US Indie icon Jarmusch uses the zombie format for a dark indictment of Donald Trump's America and its many addictions, from opioids to consumerism and social media.

3. 'Sorry We Missed You'

Having won the Palme d'Or two years ago with I, Daniel Blake, which showed the devastation caused by austerity in Britain, veteran director Ken Loach is back with an indictment of the gig economy.

Written by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, it is the powerful story of our times, with another Newcastle family battling to keep their heads above water on zero-hour contracts, with the father slaving away as a self-employed delivery driver. It received a standing ovation at the festival (watch that in the Instagram video above).

4. 'A Hidden Life'

Two decades after The Thin Red Line, American master Terrence Malick returns to World War II with a haunting story of an Austrian conscientious objector guillotined by the Nazis in 1943.

As well as the goose pimples guaranteed by the final screen performances of late actors Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz, August Diehl delivers a star turn as the man who would rather die than swear loyalty to Hitler.

It is the first time the reclusive Malick has premiered a film at Cannes since he won the Palme d'Or with The Tree of Life in 2011.

5. 'Parasite'

Korean master Bong Joon-ho of Okja and Snowpiercer fame is another Cannes regular, famous for his dark, gripping, genre-bending creations. And he is on top form with this bravura tragicomic tale about the widening gulf between rich and poor.

Two families from opposite ends of the Korean class divide become hilariously enmeshed when the son of the poor one gets a job as a tutor to the daughter of a wealthy industrialist.

With echoes of another South Korean movie, Burning, an arthouse hit last year after showing at Cannes, and the eventual Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters, critics adored it.

Bong regular Song Kang-ho (The Host and Snowpiercer) is stellar at the head of the poor family, and the movie also has Choi Woo-shik of the cult horror hit Train to Busan.

6. 'Matthias & Maxime'

Matthias & Maxime 
Matthias & Maxime

French Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan wrote, directed and plays the lead in this drama about a group of twenty-somethings in his native Quebec.

Of late, the prolific young auteur, who made a big splash with Mommy and I Killed My Mother, has divided critical opinion, and this intimate story is unlikely to wow the waverers.

7. 'The Traitor'

A biopic of Tommaso Buscetta, the first high-ranking member of Cosa Nostra to break the Sicilian Mafia's oath of silence and decide to talk after his two sons and other family members were killed.

Veteran Italian auteur Marco Bellocchio got some of the best reviews of his long career for the real-life story, with actor Pierfrancesco Favino shining in the lead.

8. 'Young Ahmed'

Twice Palme d'Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne return to the scene of their greatest triumphs with Young Ahmed, a tight and tense tale of a teenager who embraces Islamic extremism.

Like the Belgian brothers' previous gritty slices of working-class life, it is set in their native French-speaking Wallonia, an area that served as the base for the terror cell that carried out the deadly attacks on Paris in November 2015.

9. 'Pain & Glory'

Cannes usually only shows world premieres, but the festival has made an exception for Pedro Almodovar's most personal film. Released in Spain and Mexico in March to almost universal acclaim, it is a psychodrama about the past catching up with a film director.

With a bearded Antonio Banderas playing the auteur, and Penelope Cruz his mother, it's no wonder this is the biggest Spanish film of the year so far.

10. 'Nighthawk'

After wowing Cannes in 2016 with Aquarius, in which the amazing Sonia Braga shone, Brazilian director Kleber Mendonca Filho is back with Bacurau (Nighthawk), a hard-hitting story of a human safari in the Amazonian interior.

11. 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

Blue is the Warmest Colour director Abdellatif Kechiche's sparked Cannes biggest scandal with the second part of his trilogy set in Sete, his hometown on the French Mediterranean. Critics blasted the three-and-a-half-hour ode to all things carnal, which included a 13-minute explicit scene in a nightclub toilet, as almost unwatchable.

12. 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Celine Sciamma, who won rave reviews for Girlhood, her 2014 tale of young black girls growing up in the gritty French suburbs, has critics in raptures again for her 18th-century love story about a painter commissioned to do the portrait of a young woman. The film stars Adele Haenel, one of France's most sought-after young actresses.

13. 'The Wild Goose Lake'

Diao Yinan, who won the top prize at the Berlin film festival in 2014 for another crime story, Black Coal, Thin Ice, is the sole Chinese contender with this noir thriller. A young couple end up being chased by both the police and a group of gangsters who have taken control of a city.

14. 'Oh Mercy!'

Arnaud Desplechin, the whimsical French director of the 2004 film Kings & Queens, is back exploring his northern home town of Roubaix through a noirish police story starring Lea Seydoux, Roschdy Zem and Sara Forestier.

15. 'Little Joe'

Austrian-born director Jessica Hausner's sci-fi chiller from the near future is a twisted genetic modification fairytale featuring rising British star Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham.

16. 'Les Miserables'

72nd Cannes Film Festival - Photocall for the film "Les Miserables" in competition - Cannes, France, May 16, 2019. Director Ladj Ly and cast members Djibril Zonga and Issa Perica pose during a photocall for the film "Les Miserables" in competition. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
The director of Les Miserables, Ladj Ly, centre

French actor-director Ladj Ly, who grew up filming his high-rise Paris suburb and has previously worked with street art megastar JR, makes a striking Cannes debut with this moving story set in the deprived neighbourhood where the 2005 Paris riots began. It has already been snapped up by distributors across the globe.

17. 'It Must Be Heaven'

Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, who was nominated for the Palme d'Or in 2002 with Divine Intervention about a love affair across the Israeli-Palestinian divide, travels to Paris, New York and other cities for this rumination on a life lived in exile.

It may not sound like much fun, but Suleiman, who only says three words in the whole film, manages to draw humour and not a little insight from his slow-burn odyssey.

18. 'Frankie'

US director Ira Sachs casts Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson and Marisa Tomei in a film about three generations of a recomposed family coming to terms with the impending death of its matriarch during a final holiday in Portugal.

19. 'The Whistlers'

Romanian new wave director Corneliu Porumboiu has a detective fly from Bucharest to La Gomera in the Canary Islands to help a criminal escape from prison.

20. 'Atlantics'

The debut feature of Mati Diop - the first black African woman director to compete for the Palme d'Or - is a ghost story set on a Senegalese building site where workers take to the seas in search of a better life.

21. 'Sibyl'

French director Justine Triet depicts a burnt-out psychotherapist inspired by working with a distressed young actress played by Adele Exarchopoulos, star of the Cannes-winning 2013 drama Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Updated: May 25, 2019 04:41 PM

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