There are 18 films in competition will screen at the Cannes film festival this year. The 71st edition of the international festival in the south of France runs from May 8 to May 19. A filmmaker’s history at the festival offers insights as to who might be out front to take home the coveted Palme d’Or. Eight of the entries are by filmmakers that have had their work honored at past closing ceremonies. This year could definitely see someone new in the mix as four of the filmmakers are making their debuts on the Croisette while another four are having their films shown here in competition for the first time. The jury will be headed by two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett.
Below is a breakdown of the 18 films competing this year and the history of their helmers at the festival.
Stépane Brizé (“At War”)
When a company that has asked for deep financial sacrifices from its workers decides to shut down a factory despite taking in record profits, the 1,000+ workers fight back against the decision. The French film is Brizé’s second entry to compete and marks a reunion between him and star Vincent Lindon, who took home the Best Actor prize in 2015 for “The Measure of a Man.” Prior to his 2015 debut in competition, the French auteur had previously screened at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight in 1999 with “Les Bleu des Villes.”
Lee Chang-Dong (“Burning”)
The South Korean director returns to Cannes for the third time with an official selection to the festival. He made his first appearance out of competition in the Director’s Fortnight in 2000 with “Peppermint Candy.” He made his competitive debut in 2007 with “Secret Sunshine,” which scored the Best Actress prize for Do-yeon Jeon and followed that with “Poetry” in 2010, for which Lee picked up the prize for Best Screenplay. This film centers on a delivery man who watches the cat of an old acquaintance while she’s in Africa and the mysterious man that she brings back from the continent.
Asghar Farhadi (“Everybody Knows”)
The Iranian director has his third entry in competition with a film in Spanish that stars Oscar winners Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The film focuses on a Spanish woman living in Argentina who returns home with her Argentinian husband, but surprise events end up bringing long-held secrets out into the open. Farhadi is widely viewed as one of the most exciting filmmakers currently working. His two previous entries at Cannes have both won major prizes. In 2013, “The Past” picked up the Best Actress prize for Bérénice Bejo and in 2016, “The Salesman” picked up the prize for Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Shahab Hosseini. Farhadi’s films have also twice won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation” in 2011 and “The Salesman” in 2016.
Matteo Garrone (“Dogman”)
The presence of this Italian filmmaker should come as a shock to no one. It’s his fourth film to screen at the festival and while his most recent effort, “Tale of Tales” in 2015, didn’t win any prizes, his first two films to screen at Cannes both won the Grand Prix: “Gomorra” in 2008 and “Reality” in 2012. This outing centers on a mild-mannered dog groomer living outside of Rome in the 1980’s who gets pushed deep into cocaine addiction and the area’s extremely violent criminal world.
Jean-Luc Godard (“The Image Book”)
With a filmography that stretches for almost six decades (and includes the film containing the image seen on this year’s official festival poster, “Pierrot le Fou”), Godard is the most experienced filmmaker in this year’s competition. The pioneer of the French New Wave cinema returns to competition in Cannes for the eighth time. Even though his first feature came in 1960, “Breathless,” it would be another 20 years before Godard competed at Cannes for the first time with “Every Man for Himself” in 1980. He also screened at Cannes with “Passion” in 1982, “Détective” in 1985, “Aria” in 1987, “Nouvelle Vague” in 1990 and “In Praise of Love” in 2001. His film, “Film Socialisme” screened in Un Certain Regard in 2010. In 2014, Godard finally won a prize at Cannes when “Goodbye to Language” tied for the Jury Prize with Xavier Dolan’s film, “Mommy.” Not much is known about the plot of the film. The only official description comes from a vague entry on the film’s IMDb page, “Nothing but silence. Nothing but a revolutionary song. A story in five chapters like the five fingers of a hand.”
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Asako I & II”)
Ten years into his career, this Japanese filmmaker makes his first-ever appearance at the Cannes Film Festival. Hamaguchi’s film centers on Asako, a young woman who falls in love with a free-spirited man and then the man suddenly disappears. Two years later, when Asako meets another man who looks just like her old flame but has a completely different personality, she begins to fall in love with this man as well.
Christophe Honoré (“Sorry Angel”)
The French auteur will screen his second film in competition this year after showing up for the first time in 2007 with “Love Songs.” It tells the story of Jacques, a man almost hitting 40 that doesn’t believe the best in life is yet to come, and Arthur, a student who refuses to believe that certain things in life are not possible, and how they will both “like each other.” Prior to being selected to compete in 2007, Honoré’s films screened twice outside of competition: “Seventeen Times Cecile Cassard” in Un Certain Regard in 2002 and “Dans Paris” in the Director’s Fortnight in 2006.
Eva Husson (“Girls of the Sun”)
Husson is another director making their first ever appearance with their film at Cannes. This Gallic director’s film stars previous Best Actress winner, Emmanuelle Bercot, and follows the story of an armed group of women resistance fighters who come together to take back control of their Kurdish town that has been taken over by religious extremists.
Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”)
Kore-eda is one of this year’s more established veterans of Cannes with “Shoplifters” becoming his fifth film to screen in competition. His entry this year centers on a family of lower-end crooks who take in an abandoned little girl they find on streets. The Japanese director first came to Cannes in 2001 with “Distance” and returned in 2004 with “Nobody Knows,” which won the Best Actor prize for 14-year-old Yûya Yagira, the youngest person ever to win the prize. He also competed in 2013 with “Like Father, Like Son,” which won the Jury Prize and in 2015 with “Our Little Sister.” He’s also twice competed in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival with “Air Doll” in 2009 and “After the Storm” in 2016.
Nadine Labaki (“Capernaum”)
Labaki began her career as an actress in the early 2000’s but made the transition to filmmaker soon thereafter. Hailing from Lebanon, her previous two films screened at Cannes outside the official competition. Her first film, “Caramel,” screened in the Director’s Fortnight in 2007 and her follow up, “Where Do We Go Now?,” screened in the Un Certain Regard selection in 2011. Her first film in competition tells the story of a child who fights back against the life that has been imposed upon him.
Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Lee has his third career film in competition. He first came to the Croisette in 1986 with his first full-length feature, “She’s Gotta Have It,” which screened in the Director’s Fortnight and was nominated for the Camera d’Or for the best debut film. His next two screenings at Cannes would be “Do the Right Thing” in 1989 and “Jungle Fever” in 1991, which both played in competition. In 1999, “Summer of Sam” screened in the Director’s Fortnight and in 2002, Lee was part of the filmmaking team behind “Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet,” which screened in Un Certain Regard. Lee’s latest centers on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and became a chapter leader.
David Robert Mitchell (“Under the Silver Lake”)
The American director is returns to Cannes with his third career feature and his first time in competition. The film stars Andrew Garfield as a man who becomes obsessed with the weird circumstances surrounding a wealthy man’s murder and a girl’s kidnapping. Mitchell’s previous two films both screened in the International Critics’ Week: “The Myth of the American Sleepover” in 2010 and “It Follows” in 2014.
Jafar Panahi (“Three Faces”)
The Iranian filmmaker finds himself in a very delicate situation as he marks his first entry into the official competition at Cannes with this project about three actresses in various situations. Panahi was arrested in 2010 for making propaganda against the Iranian regime and has since been unable to leave the country and has been forbidden from making movies. That didn’t stop him from smuggling a documentary about his situation out of the country called, “This is Not a Film,” which was screened at a special event in 2011 at Cannes. Panahi has been to Cannes twice before. His debut film, “The White Balloon” screened in the Director’s Fortnight in 1995 and was awarded the Camera d’Or. In 2003, “Crimson Gold” screened in Un Certain Regard and took that section’s Jury Prize. Festival director Thierry Frémaux is personally appealing to Iran to allow for Panahi to attend the festival.
Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”)
Pawlikowski is marking his first appearance at Cannes with this romantic story about two people from different backgrounds who are unfortunately mismatched. The Polish filmmaker has been making movies for almost three decades. His career hit a high mark in 2014 when his film, “Ida,” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first film from Poland to take home the honor.
Alice Rohrwacher (“Lazzaro Felice”)
Rohrwacher’s third feature film will also mark her third trip to Cannes. The Italian director’s debut film, “Heavenly Body,” screened in the Director’s Fortnight in 2011 and was nominated for the Camera d’Or. Her second film, “The Wonders,” claimed the Grand Prix in 2014. Her upcoming film centers on a man who lives outside of society’s norms and travels through time.
Kirill Serebrennikov (“Summer”)
Like Panahi, Serebrennikov is currently in legal trouble in his home country that could prevent him from attending this year’s festival. He is currently on house arrest in his native Russia for supposedly being involved in a fraud scheme involving government funds to a non-profit he established. Serebrennikov’s latest film explores the life of Viktor Tsoi, a rock star in the Soviet Union, and the rock and roll underground that existed in Leningrad. His previous film, “The Student,” screened in the Un Certain Regard section in 2016.
Abu Bakr Shawky (“Yomeddine”)
Shawky is the lone filmmaker in this year’s competition to be screening his first feature film. The Egyptian comedy is about a middle-aged man raised in a leper colony who leaves in order to search for what remains of his birth family. Should Shawky win the Palme d’Or, he would become the sixth director to win the Palme for their first film. The previous directors to achieve this were Delbert Mann in 1955 (“Marty”), Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle in 1956 (“The Silent World”), Henri Colpi in 1961 (“The Long Absence” which tied with “Viridiana” by Luis Buñuel) and Steven Soderbergh in 1989 (“sex, lies, and videotape”).
Jia Zhangke (“Ash is Purest White”)
The Chinese director returns to Cannes with his fifth film to screen in competition. His film is about a woman in love with a mobster who goes to protect her lover and attempts to pick up the relationship again after her release. Zhangke first came to Cannes in 2002 with “Unknown Pleasures” and again in 2008 with “24 City.” In 2010, “I Wish I Knew” screened in the Un Certain Regard section. In 2013 he returned with “A Touch of Sin” which claimed the prize for Best Screenplay. He was most recently at the festival in 2015 with “Mountains May Depart.”