Cannes Film Fest 2022: Trends, Sets, Jets–and Donkeys

Cannes Film Fest 2022

Not only did organizers have to pull off a maskless/testless fest in the middle of a still-raging pandemic, but Cannes coming just as theaters worldwide are reopening made the 75th-anniversary event a litmus test for the health of the movie industry.

The festival this year had to overcome several obstacles. The organizers had to pull off a maskless/testless fest in the midst of still-raging pandemic. Moreover, Cannes was oming just as theaters worldwide are reopening made the 75th-anniversary event litmus test for the health of the movie industry.

Ruben Ostlund
Armageddon Time, One Fine Morning, Showing Up and Tori and Lokita

Cannes is Back!

Cannes director Thierry Frémaux had promised that the 2022 diamond jubilee would mark a return to cinema celebration after two years of pandemic lockdowns.

Cannes delivered with blockbuster premieres and parties: the thunderous jet plane red carpet flyover for Top Gun: Maverick, the jaw-dropping drone display for Warner Bros.’ Elvis fête — buzzy arthouse features in competition (Decision to Leave, Triangle of Sadness) and out (Gina Gammell and Riley Keough’s War Pony, Charlotte Wells’ Critics’ Week debut Aftersun) and packed theaters, suggesting there just might be future in the movie business.

The theatrical business took beating during COVID, even as streaming services surged. Many counted out traditional movie-going and the independent ecosystem that supports it.

But traditional buyers dominated deal-making in Cannes.

Sony Classics bought Davy Chou’s Korean drama Return to Seoul and Mia Hansen-Løve’s Director’s Fortnight title One Fine Morning starring Léa Seydoux;

A24 took North America for Aftersun and Lukas Dhont’s Jury Prize winner Close;

upstart distributor Utopia scored domestic rights to Ali Abbasi’s Iranian noir thriller Holy Spider;

IFC snatched up Cristian Mungiu’s Romanian competition entry R.M.N., and Vicky Krieps costume drama Corsage.

Digital showing will be big part of the returns for those titles, but they’ll be on the big screen first before coming to the small screen.

War in Ukraine 

The reality of the war being in Ukraine cast shadow over this year’s festival. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the audience of the opening night gala via live video link, calling on filmmakers to “not to stand by idly” while his country burns.

At the premiere of George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing, a woman stripped naked to reveal body painted in colors of the Ukrainian flag with the words “stop raping us” written across her torso.

The filmmakers behind Butterfly Vision, the only Ukrainian film in competition, used the red carpet to unveil banner protesting what they see as social media’s censoring of the Ukraine war. “Russians kill Ukrainians. Do you find it offensive or disturbing to talk about this genocide?” it read. All were a needed reality check that punctured the Cannes bubble.

Neon Scores Palme d’Or Winner–Again

For the third consecutive year, Tom Quinn’s specialty distributor Neon acquired the American theatrical rights to the Cannes title that would win the Palme d’Or.

This year it was Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s social satire Triangle of Sadness, following Julia Ducournau’s body horror drama Titane in 2021 and Bong Joon-ho’s dramedy Parasite in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Critics in Cannes were fiercely divided about Triangle of Sadness, with some lamenting how Östlund had abandoned the subtlety and sophistication of his prior work for a blunter and more ribald brand of social critique — while others praised the film for doing just the same. Still, Neon could have a commercial winner on their hands thanks to Triangle of Sadness‘ timely and entertaining dunking on the mega-rich, as well as a winning turn from Woody Harrelson. The film stars a pair of fashion models who are left stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires and a cleaning lady after a disaster strikes their luxury cruise.

In the fight for survival, social and financial hierarchies are turned upside down — not unlike the themes of Parasite, which earned $53.4 million for Neon in America and won 4 Oscars.

Cementing Neon’s status as tastemakers of American arthouse, the company scored the rights in Cannes to Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda’s acclaimed drama Broker, starring the great Korean  star, Song Kang-ho (Parasite), who won Cannes’ best actor.

Donkeys in lieu of Dogs?

When accepting the official competition’s jury prize for EO, director Jerzy Skolimowski didn’t just name-check all 6 donkeys that played the central character in his acclaimed coming-of-age (coming-of-‘bray’ge?) drama, but ended his speech with dramatic “Eyeore!” bellowed at the top of his lungs.

While almost certainly a first in any awards ceremony, the shout out signaled the emergence of a new animal at the top of Cannes’ cinematic creature tree. For the last 21 years, the Palm Dog award has given on-screen canines top dog billing on the Croisette, celebrating the best four-legged performances at the festival. But EO‘s donkeys, for the first time in Cannes, appeared to give the mutts’ best in show status sharp hoof to the head.

At the Palm Dog ceremony, the day before, it was different Beast that landed the top prize. Brit, the silver poodle who played Beast in Riley Keough and Gina Gammell’s War Pony, claimed the golden embossed collar, with the co-directors accepting the prize via video. Palm Dog founder Toby Rose observed: “Each year an interloper species attempts to dislodge the king canine, and this year is no different. Palme d’Onkey? I don’t think so.”