African Diasporic Films Poised for Success at Cannes Film Festival

Michael Kenneth Williams stars in Steve McQueen's highly anticipated film, 'Twelve Years a Slave.' (Google Images)

Michael Kenneth Williams stars in Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated film, ‘Twelve Years a Slave.’ (Google Images)

Tambay A. Obenson of IndieWire’s Shadow and Act is reporting that 15 films from the African Diaspora are poised for success at the Cannes Film Festival. Obenson writes:

“While we still have about 3 weeks before the festival unveils its full lineup (they usually do so in pieces, spread out over a short period of time), I thought I’d start to take a look at what African Diaspora films just might be selected to debut in competition, at the world’s most prestigious film festival this year – films that we’ve been following on this site for the last year or 2, that have the strongest chances of being included in the festival’s full lineup, once it’s announced.

The 12-day festival runs from May 15 to 26… I [Obenson] certainly hope that this year’s line-up, unlike recent previous years, includes a substantial representation of Diaspora films (relative to previous years), especially since there are a good number of titles that I think could be candidates.”

Obenson offers five films that have the strongest possibility of making the festival and offers an additional ten that could potentially make the cut in another post. Below is his list of three that are strong contenders.

1. Twelve Years A Slave: An absolute no-brainer as far I’m concerned. Steve McQueen‘s third feature which stars a rather impressive cast of actors, including Chiwetel EjioforMichael FassbenderRuth Negga, Adepero OduyeAlfre WoodardLupita Nyong’oPaul DanoBenedict CumberbatchScoot McNairyGarret DillahuntBrad Pitt, Michael K. Williams Paul GiamattiSarah Paulson and others. No word yet on a release date for the film; but I’d be really surprised if it didn’t debut at Cannes this year, en route to other top-tier film festivals before opening in USA theaters in the early fall. I expect it to be an awards season favorite, especially in key roles, both in front of and behind the camera.

2. Grisgris: Chadian filmmaker Mahamat Saleh-Haroun’s follow-up to his last work, the critically-acclaimed drama Un Homme Qui Crie (aka A Screaming Man). The film was shot last fall, and, given that Saleh-Haroun isn’t a stranger to Cannes (3 of his last 5 films all premiered at Cannes) I fully expect that Grisgris will continue that trend, and debut at this year’s Cannes edition. The film centers on Grisgris, a 25 year old boy with dreams of becoming a dancer despite the fact that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. His dreams are shattered when his uncle falls seriously ill. To save him, he decides to work for petrol smugglers. Not quite the same father/son relationship theme that seems to run through his work (see Abouna-2002, Daratt-2006, A Screaming Man-2010), but still seemingly very much in that similar relational vein. The film stars Soulémane DéméMariam MonoryCyril Guei, and Marius Yelolo (who’s worked with Haroun on at least 2 other past films).

3. Half Of A Yellow Sun: last month, it was rumored that the film would premiere at FESPACO, but those rumors turned out to be false. And given that it skipped Berlin, I think this is primed for a Cannes debut. The film adaptation of celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun, is directed by playwright Biyi Bandele (his feature film directorial debut), with an international cast that includes Thandie NewtonJohn BoyegaChiwetel EjioforDominic CooperAnika Noni RoseJoseph Mawle and Genevieve Nnaji. If both Twelve Years A Slave and this film make the Cannes selection list, Chiwetel Ejiofor will be attending the festival with 2 films in which he stars. Both films should be released in theaters (USA) this year, so, either way, it should be a big year for Mr Ejiofor, who does have at least one project on the horizon.

Click here to see part one of Obenson’s list. Read more about the films and part two of Obenson’s list here.

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