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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Cannes 2018 Video #5: Capharnaüm, The First of Many and More

Here is Chaz Ebert's fifth video dispatch from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, accompanied by a transcript of the video...

This year the red carpet was taken over by not just photographers and movie moguls, but also stormtroopers and wookies! "Solo: A Star Wars Story," directed by Ron Howard screened out of competition here in Cannes, and it was a star studded event. To top it off, we were even treated to a fireworks show, lighting up the night sky after the film.

While the battle for the galaxy can be a lot of fun to watch, frankly most of us are concentrated on the battle for the Palme d’Or. And last night we saw a VERY strong contender at the red carpet premiere of "Capharnaüm," from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. The film revolves around a 12-year-old boy, Zain, who sues his parents for bringing him into a terrible world. But that’s just on the surface. The majority of the film shows in painful detail how Zain got to that point: watching his 11-year-old sister being sold off by his parents, running away from home, living on the streets, and being forced to take care of a 1-year-old baby without any money or support. Labaki shot over 500 hours of footage over 6 months to craft this tale, and the result is astounding. You’ll be amazed at the performances she’s able to capture from these non-professional actors, including the best performance by a baby that I have ever seen.

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While it’s wonderful to see a female director like Nadine Labaki succeed so admirably here in Cannes, the industry still has a long way to go towards equality as evidenced by the protests earlier in the festival calling for 50/50 by 2020: Equal representation of women by the year 2020. And the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements remain at the forefront of conversation here on the Croisette.

One woman active in that movement is talented actress and casting director, Pamela Guest. She was raped in the 1970’s and only realized many years later that the rapist was Oscar winning composer and filmmaker Joseph Brooks who ironically composed the song “You Light Up My Life.” Guest was brave enough to make a short film about her ordeal called "The First of Many." Her role is played, and co-directed, by her daughter Elizabeth. It’s a powerful statement that really felt like a punch to the gut when I watched it.

Other women filmmakers are on display here in Cannes as well. A documentary about the mother of cinema called “Be Natural” and directed by Pamela Green played in Cannes Classics. It tells the forgotten story of Alice Guy Blaché, a woman who directed over a thousand films in the early silent era, and even pioneered techniques like color tinting and synchronized sound, and working with an all black cast. Despite her vast contributions to the history of film, and even owning her own movie studio, she’s been largely left out of cinema history. This film aims to change that.

This week, I also had the chance to sit and talk with Matthew Helderman from Buffalo 8 and Bond It Media Capital. Matthew’s company has really ramped up their financing of independent motion pictures in the last year.

You may remember in a previous year I introduced you to one of the Ebert Fellows, a recipient of the Independent Spirit Awards Project Involve Ebert Grant, Sue Ellen Chitunya. Today, Sue Ellen is a post-production coordinator for a large Hollywood studio and is doing great. She’s back in Cannes and I talked with her a bit to get an update on her career.

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Lots of aspiring film students come to Cannes to get a taste of what the business is like, and their educators do as well. I met with Gary Novak the head of DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts to talk about what’s happening back in Chicago including their collaboration with young women filmmakers who live in Chicago Housing Authority residences.

The festival is starting to wrap things up. In the meantime, we’ll be featuring our annual critic’s roundtable to give you their perspective on the films this year. And as soon as the prizes are announced, we’ll make sure you are the first to know. So continue checking back here at RogerEbert.com/Cannes for more written and video reports.  

We’ll see you soon!


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