While Hispanic movies feature prominently in the 65th Cannes International Film Festival's selection, with 10 such films in the Official selection, the Asian contingent might appear to be a little bit behind in quantity --but not in quality.
A 'new boom' in Latin American cinema
The presence of Latin American filmmakers in the most prestigious sections is simply an indication of their talent, notes Eva Morsch Kihn, coordinator at the French association Arcalt (Association rencontres cinémas d'Amérique latine de Toulouse), with a smile. This strong showing is also related to a number of "very entrenched [cultural policies], especially in Colombia where the Ministry of Culture operates platforms to promote new film projects. The market is taking shape, young talents are being identified and given support [for their projects]."
Brazil is the festival's special guest nation this year, proving the interest of the festival organizers in Latin American cinema. The Portuguese-speaking country will be at the heart of the Official Selection, through a documentary by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos dubbed A musica segundo Tom Jobim (Séance spéciale) and through the participation of Carlos Diegues, president of the jury for the Caméra d'Or, a prize that crowns the best first movie of a director.
President of the Paris Brazilian Film Festival Katia Adler sees it as a celebration. "Brazil is producing an increasing number of movies, and the quality gets better each year. It's been a while since Brazilian cinema was seen at Cannes, so it is truly an honor," she outlines. "Carlos Diegues is an important figure for cinema in general and Brazilian film in particular." She continues that, "In places like Brazil where it is hard to produce movies, there's always a desire for more but we shouldn't rush things. And in any case, Cannes is most important movie event in the world."
Asia's safe bets
South Korea is the only Asian country that has films in the running for the Palme d'Or, with movies by two Sang-soo's : Hong and In. Japan will also have a presence, however, through the movie Like Someone in Love, directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami and filmed in Japan with a Japanese cast.
Jean-Marc Thérouanne, representing the Vesoul International Festival of Asian Cinema, admits that the continent might "seem a little behind in the competition," however he points out that the Un Certain Regard segment features four Asian directors (Lou Ye of China, Darezhan Omirbayev of Kazakhstan, a young Indian filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia and the Japanese Koji Wakamatsu). Stars like Takashi Miike and Apichatpong Weerasethakul have showings, out of the competition. Moreover, in the Quinzaine des réalisateurs, Korea features "heavily."
"Of course, Asia is less represented than a few years ago, but you should not forget that it is largelt a question of trends. If Korea is very present, it is because the country is trendy. Other countries might not be present but Darezhan Omirbayev is on the program, for example. The best of Asian cinema is on the program at Cannes, even if the number is less impressive than in previous years," adds Thérouanne.
The age of coproduction
"Coproduction is also a trend," continues Thérouanne, "Hong Sang-soo is collaborating with Isabelle Huppert and Kiarostami, an Iranian director working in Japan. This is very fashionable at the moment in cinema, which is a global affair. It's not surprising that these coproductions are becoming increasingly frequent.
And it's a trend that also can be seen in Latin America. "Hispanic cinema is global, its coproduction market is well developed and it's full of globetrotting players," indicates Eva Morsch Kihn.
Coproductions like the movie 3 by Pablo Stroll Ward (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Germany) or William Vega's La Sirga (Colombia, Mexico, France), featured in the Quinzaine des réalisateurs, bring together different Latin American countries, with European countries.
"Multiplexes play many North American blockbusters but a lot of emphasis is being placed on regional cinema diffusion, from within the Latin American regions. Access to this culture --and its transmission are central to their work," adds Morsch Kihn.
"The Latin Amerian movie industry is [also] one that is passionate about cinema, with a lot of interest in European and international films."
One example of such a coproduction is Walter Salles's adaptation of Jack Kerouac's famous book On the Road. The Brazilian director worked with English-speaking actorsin a film financed by Brazil, France and Canada -- and the film is one of the most eagerly awaited on the Croisette.