Cannes Film Fest 2016: Strong American Presence–Woody Allen, Sean Penn, Jeff Nichols

Strong year for American filmmakers at the Cannes Film Fest?

While festival director Thierry Fremaux and his selection committee still have many titles to screen and many decisions to make before nailing down their lineup in mid April, the film slate may be marked by starry English-language fare.

As already noted, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, is Cannes-bound.

Jeff Nichols Loving

A competition slot likely awaits “Loving,” Nichols’ civil rights drama starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia. Set to open theatrically November 4 through Focus Features, the film would mark a return to Cannes for Nichols after “Take Shelter” (2011, Critics’ Week) and “Mud” (2012, competition). It would also put him in the rare company of directors who have had different films play Berlin and Cannes in the same year, having competed in Berlin for the Golden Bear with Midnight Special.

Sean Penn’s The Last Face

A competition slot has just been locked for The Last Face, Penn’s drama starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as aid workers who fall in love against the backdrop of war-torn Liberia.  It will put Penn and Theron on the red carpet after they broke off their engagement last year.

The film marks a return to Cannes for the actor-turned-director after his helming debut, The Indian Runner (1991, Directors’ Fortnight) and The Pledge (2001, competition). Penn served as president of the official Cannes jury in 2008.

Woody Allen’s Also set to bow in Cannes is Woody Allen’s 1930s romance “Cafe Society,” starring Kristen Stewart, Bruce Willis and Jesse Eisenberg. Set to be released by Amazon Studios (rather than the director’s usual distributor, Sony Pictures Classics), Allen’s film will screen in an out-of-competition slot. The director was at Cannes just last year with Irrational Man, which later was an artistic and commercial flop.

While an opening-night film has yet to be decided, Cafe Society is one of a few films in the run.  Allen previously opened the festival in 2011 with Midnight in Paris.

The 69th Cannes Film Festival runs May 11-22.