WITH less emphasis on glamour and red carpet, Cannes got off to an unusually strong start with one of the most substantial opening films in years.
Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows is a tense Spanish-language kidnapping drama starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in which Laura (Cruz) returns to Spain to attend her sister’s wedding in a rural community where everyone’s lives are intermingled in innumerable ways.
The nuptials, involving the whole village, are suddenly plunged into darker territory when, during a power cut, Laura’s daughter is kidnapped and the repercussions are intriguingly tangled.
One character after another has a motive for the crime and the trauma reignites smouldering resentments, bringing long-buried secrets to the surface and leaving all the characters with a sense of guilt. It's a rich story, with weighty themes and beautiful performances from its charismatic stars Cruz and Bardem.
Another strong entry was Ukrainian-Russian director Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass. Its focus is life in eastern Ukraine, one of the most troubled regions in contemporary Europe, where a nation is falling apart.
Shot entirely in the town of Krivoy Rog, the film is a sharp denunciation of Putin’s Russia, particularly the unscrupulous relationship between the state and the media. A powerful satire that reaches beyond regional politics.
Egyptian director AB Shawky’s Yomeddine is a remarkable road movie about an unlikely pair of outcasts fleeing a leper colony and an orphanage. The two vividly drawn central characters — Beshay (Rady Gamal), a 40-year-old leper who makes his living scavenging on a giant rubbish dump and Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz), an energetic and stubborn orphan – carry the film from the opening shot.
When Beshay decides to return to his birthplace and reconnect with his family, Obama goes with him and a captivating film unfolds. It visits a land rarely featured in Western cinema and captures its magic and history to stunning effect, affording dignity and beauty to a people forgotten by the rest of the world.
The strongest entry in the competition so far has been Polish film-maker Pawel Pawlikowski's beautifully made Cold War.
It's a totally original story of the passionate love affair between a fatally mismatched couple in 1950s Poland and is a pleasure to watch.
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