Short films to get a glitzy showcase at Cannes 2020 Special
- As the Cannes 2020 Special gets under way, we take a look at some of the shorts vying for the Short Film Palme d’Or
Despite the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival as a physical event in May of this year, the world’s biggest film gathering is still making its presence felt thanks to the Cannes label and the Cannes 2020 Special, an event running from 27-29 October, which aims – in the festival’s own words – “to put an emphasis on short films and up-and-coming directors”.
Over the three days, a six-person jury will be on hand to award the Short Film Palme d’Or to one of the 11 films taking part in this year’s Cannes Shorts competition, with eight of the titles on offer being European productions or co-productions.
Director Sophie Littman creates a moody and atmospheric piece in Sudden Light, about two girls walking their dogs across the moors when strange things begin to happen. Redolent with a haunting atmosphere, Littman melds social realism with a hint of MR James to provide a powerful and surreal meditation on grief. Also with a sense of the surreal is Portuguese filmmaker David Pinheiro Vicente’s The Lamb of God. It’s an enigmatic and often beautiful work focusing on the dynamics of a Portuguese family during summer festivities. There’s a feeling of claustrophobia and menace as the film muses on issues of religion, sexuality and coming of age, and marks a remarkable second work from Vicente, whose previous short, Where the Summer Goes (chapters on youth), premiered at Berlin and proved extremely popular on the festival circuit. After the Greek film The Distance Between Us and the Sky won the Short Film Palme d’Or last year, Greece will pin its hopes on Evi Kalogiropoulou’s Motorway65. The film, set on the edge of an industrial city where the titular highway that leads to Athens lies, sees the inhabitants of said city dealing with the explosions – both literal and figurative – that life metes out. Another film that plays fast and loose with realism, it’s a punchy and exciting short that encompasses ideas about class and immigration all suffused with a hazy ennui.
The animation Blue Fear by Marie Jacotey and Lola Halifa-Legrand (France) is a bold and provocative short, focusing on a girl who is kidnapped in the hills of Provence while driving with her boyfriend. There, she finds herself with a group of women who discuss the complications of sexuality and life, and it becomes difficult to tell what is or isn’t real. The film juxtaposes beautiful, hand-drawn animation with sometimes violent imagery in a piece that becomes a metaphor for both the excitement and the fear that any new relationship entails. Relationships are explored in a much gentler manner in the second French film in competition, Camille, Contactless. Paul Nouhet’s quietly absurd flick sees teenager Max muse about the girl working behind the local checkout. There’s a lovely awkwardness here wrapped around two teenagers who are both naïve yet utterly sure about their place in the world. Peppered with strange moments, it’s a wonderfully measured relationship comedy.
More narratively straightforward is Stéphanie by Leonardo Van Dijl (Belgium), about an 11-year-old gymnast who – on winning her first competition – realises the hard path her life is going to take. This is a subtle affair, full of affecting performances, especially from Charlotte Verwimp in the title role.
Co-produced by Egypt, France, Belgium and Qatar, I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face by Egyptian filmmaker Sameh Alaa is a powerful meditation on a man who is desperate to see the love he has been separated from. A constantly surprising piece of work that brings in notions of grief, gender and death, it’s a wonderfully moving and human film. Another European co-production is the Mongolian-UK short Mountain Cat by Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir, which follows a mother who takes her daughter to a witch doctor. A treatise on belief and coming of age, the film is a careful and considered work that marks out the director as one to watch over the coming years.
The 2020 jury, who will decide on the recipient of the Short Film Palme d’Or as well as the three Cinéfondation prizes due to be given out to the best of the 17 selected films by film-school students, is made up of Claire Burger (director-screenwriter, France), Damien Bonnard (actor, France), Rachid Bouchareb (director-screenwriter-producer, France), Charles Gillibert (producer, France), Dea Kulumbegashvili (director-screenwriter, Georgia) and Céline Sallette (actress, France).
Here is the full list of short films taking part in the 2020 Cannes Short Film Competition:
I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face - Sameh Alaa (Egypt/France/Belgium/Qatar)
Blue Fear - Marie Jacotey and Lola Halifa-Legrand (France)
Motorway65 - Evi Kalogiropoulou (Greece)
Sudden Light - Sophie Littman (UK)
Son of Sodom - Theo Montoya (Colombia/Argentina)
Camille, Contactless - Paul Nouhet (France)
The Lamb of God - David Pinheiro Vicente (Portugal/France)
Mountain Cat - Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir (Mongolia/UK)
Benjamin, Benny, Ben - Paul Shkordoff (Canada)
Stéphanie - Leonardo Van Dijl (Belgium)
David - Zachary Woods (USA)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.