Cannes You Dig It?!

7 not to be missed films from this year’s festival

With a few days still to go before the Palme d’Or grand prize is awarded, the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival has already sparked conversations about representation of women behind the camera, the refugee crisis, the future of virtual reality, and, of course, celebrities in attendance and what they’re wearing. And that’s just what’s happening off-screen. This year’s Cannes films don’t shy away from big issues either — some of the most buzzed-about movies coming out of the festival take on racial and gender equality, poverty, and war, just to name a few. Below are some of the films screening at Cannes starting their own conversations.


Look for: racism, marriage equality

From the New York Times: “In ‘Loving,’ the director Jeff Nichols tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose 1958 marriage broke Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law and eventually led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that deemed marriage a human right.” At a moment when people all over the world continue to fight for the right to marry who they love, this moving portrait of one brave couple, seems just as relevant half a century later.

I, Daniel Blake

Look for: welfare, disability, hunger, economic insecurity

From Variety: “ The tale of Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), a 59-year-old carpenter from Newcastle, who is fighting to hold on to his welfare benefits, even though his heart condition forbids him from working, is one that’s sure to resonate across national borders, because it’s about something so much larger than bureaucratic cruelty (although it is very much about that). It captures a world — our world — in which the opportunity to thrive, or even just survive, is shrinking by the minute.” In a fictional story that mirrors the very real lives of so many, this film from director Ken Loach puts viewers face-to-face with the harsh realities of living in poverty.


Look for: pollution, feminism, working women, family caregiving

From Variety: “The title refers to the state of ‘thermal inversion’ that, on bad days, pushes the poison in Tehran’s atmosphere to maximum density. It’s an oppressive situation the citizens of Tehran simply live with, like lousy weather (or government crackdowns), but in ‘Inversion,’ the pollution sets off a chain reaction of familial discord that closes in on the heroine, Niloofar (Sahar Dowlatshahi), until it forces her to find a new source of air.” Though it takes place in Iran, the story of a woman forced to choose between the family obligations expected of her and her own career and personal life is a universal one.

The Last Face

Look for: international aid, civil and human rights, Africa, climate change

From The Hollywood Reporter: “The Last Face stars [Charlize] Theron as the director of an international aid organization working in Liberia who embarks on a love affair with a stubborn and impulsive relief-aid doctor, played by [Javier] Bardem. However, their mutual passion for the value of life is matched by the intensity of their opposing opinions on how to best solve the conflict that surrounds them, creating a seemingly insurmountable rift.” At a time when conflict is rife across the globe, “The Last Face” creates a dialogue about the global community’s responsibility to intervene and the broader impact of humanitarianism.


Look for: police brutality, protest, religion, Middle East

From The Guardian: “Set in 2013, two years after the Tahrir Square protests … [director Mohamed Diab’s] frighteningly naturalistic drama is spent entirely in a police riot van in the midst of violent protests. One-by-one, the vehicle is filled with a variety of demonstrators and journalists, who remain in bitter conflict with one another.” By setting itself in a single, confined area, the film challenges viewers to consider the brutal impacts of revolution by looking not at the big picture, but at a very small one.

American Honey

Look for: gender equality, LGBTQ, women, feminism

From The Independent: “As she tries to sell her magazine subscriptions, Star comes across oil workers, ready to spend a small fortune for sex and companionship, earnest Christian moms, doe-eyed kids living in absolute poverty and wealthy modern-day cowboy-types. She drinks the worm at the mescaline bottle. She takes drugs. She has a very tempestuous romance with Jake under the eyes of the gang’s leader, Krystal (Riley Keough), a tough, jealous and mean-spirited wrangler who is very glamorous in a blue collar way.” The road movie is often associated with young men, and here the genre is gender flipped. Directed by Brit Andrea Arnold and set in Texas, she not only centers the story around a young woman, her perspective on American iconography is sure to evoke emotion.

Wrong Elements

Look for: children, Africa, war, humanitarian aid/response

From Variety: “The victims of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army speak up in novelist Jonathan Littell’s lengthy but affecting documentary debut…With chunks of onscreen text and title cards, [the] documentary exhaustively lists the dates and locations marking the rise and still-progressing fall of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Ugandan rebel movement that fed its ranks for decades by abducting and recruiting thousands of unsuspecting adolescents.” By providing specific details about where and how long Uganda’s crisis has been raging, this documentary underscores for audiences how little attention these atrocities have received from media compared to other global conflicts.

Emily Gardner is a Senior Account Manager at Spitfire Strategies.

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