The Cannes Film Festival runs until May 22, with big names attending the much-anticipated, red-carpeted opening night. Among movies by well-known directors—such as Woody Allen, who opened the festival with his romance, Café Society—Cannes also sees several Southeast Asian directors present their works across its many categories.
Among the 20 movies competing for the coveted Palme d’Or trophy, Brillante Mendoza from the Philippines entered with Ma' Rosa. Mendoza has a string of accolades in Cannes including a Palme d'Or nomination in 2008 for Service; a Best Director award and a Palm d'Or nomination for Kinatay in 2009; and winner in the “Un Certain Regard” section in 2015 for Taklub.
Ma' Rosa tells the story of Rosa and Nestor, the owners of a small convenience store in Manila's poor neighbourhood, and their four children. The two sell drugs on the side for additional income, but one day they are arrested and the children are left scrambling to free their parents.
In the Un Certain Regard category there is Apprentice by Singaporean director Boo Junfeng. Directors in this category are selected for their innovative and audacious work and to compete for a €30,000 prize. Junfeng was the first Singaporean to join Cannes' International Critics' Week in 2010 with Sandcastle.
Apprentice is about Aiman, a correctional officer who joins a high-security prison and becomes an apprentice to Koon, the chief executioner. Their pasts turn out to be a murky, intertwined history, making his job not so simple.
A Cambodian movie, Exile, by Rithy Panh is listed under Special Screening. Many of Panh's movies are from an authoritative viewpoint about the events during and after the Khmer Rouge regime. Most of his family members died under the bloody, harsh rule of Pol Pot, while Panh himself managed to escape to Thailand.
Exile narrates the story of a boy who grows up to question and refuse injustices in Democratic Kampuchea. Told in a mostly pictorial style with a narrative, this is a movie that mulls not only on absence and inner solitude, but also geography and politics.
Indonesia's rising movie industry is also included in the International Critics' Week, which is aimed at discovering up-and-coming international directors. Contending for the €4,000 prize and the Leica Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film is 23-year-old filmmaker Wrengas Bhanuteja.
Prenjak (In the Year of the Monkey) shows a young woman, Diah, who sells matches priced at Rp10,000 for each stick to her friend Jarwo. Each one allows him to view a different part of her body. Bhanuteja had his Lembusura movie featured in last year's Berlinale and The Floating Chopin, in collaboration with Esya Ruswandono, competed in March's Hong Kong Film Festival.
Photo Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival and Wregas Bhanuteja.