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Reclaim The Frame recommendations from the 77th Cannes Film Festival

Our Director Melanie Iredale spent a sunny Cannes in a dark cinema last week (with thanks to support from Film Hub London), and we’re excited to share with you her #ReclaimTheFrame recommendations - reporting back on 7 of the titles (co)written and (co)directed by women, and focusing on films that premiered in the second week of the festival.

Disappointingly, though not surprisingly, only 4 of 22 titles in competition, 6 of 18 nominated for the Un Certain Regard, and 19% of the overall selection at Cannes were directed by women. According to data from Le Collectif 5050 – a fellow cine-campaigning organisation, in France with whom we met while at the festival – only 5.2% of films in Competition at Cannes since its creation have been directed by women. 

That said, all the more reason to highlight those titles coming to the UK – or which we hope find a home in cinemas here – and including those that got less red carpet and industry attention. 

ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT written & directed by Payal Kapadia. India, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Italy 2024. 

First up, starting with the Grand Prix-winning ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT by Payal Kapadia. The first film from India to compete at Cannes in 30 years, and the first Indian woman director to compete full stop. Kapadia’s first feature, the stunning documentary A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING, which won the Camera d’Or in 2021, sadly only got a very limited release in the UK. Kapadia’s latest already looks set to reach the audiences here it deserves.  This is the story of 3 working class nurses of different generations, based in Mumbai, all of whom, between life and work, have dedicated their lives to the service of others, and each decide to embark on their own journey. ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT is a luminous film, a story of friendship and emancipation, told with gentleness and with the same humanity offered by its lead characters. 

ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT has been picked up by BFI for theatrical distribution in the UK. 

Also competing for the Palm d’Or, and taking home the prize for Best Screenplay is THE SUBSTANCE – a feminist body horror, and subversive take on the screen industry’s damnation of ageing women. Demi Moore stars as a Hollywood actress turned Jane Fonda-styled TV fitness presenter who is unceremoniously dumped from her slot when she turns 50. Enter ‘the substance’ which offers a chance to generate a younger, ‘more beautiful, more perfect’ double. Not unlike DEATH BECOMES HER – just as comic and as camp but with more gore - THE SUBSTANCE explores not only impossible beauty standards but also the way in which patriarchy pits women against each other in the fight for survival. 

Reclaim The Frame supported Fargeat’s previous feature, REVENGE, and we look forward to seeing THE SUBSTANCE reach UK cinemas via MUBI. 

SANTOSH written & directed by Sandhya Suri. UK 2024

From British Indian (Darlington raised) first-time feature director Sandhya Suri and featuring a largely Indian cast and crew comes SANTOSH – a compelling debut exploring casteism and misogyny in the Indian police force. The story centres on Santosh, newly widowed, who through a government scheme inherits her husband’s role as Constable, which is her only means of being entitled to financial support. When a low caste Dalit girl is found dead, Santosh is pulled into the investigation, and into the brutality of the law enforcement system of which she is now a part. A powerful thriller with its lead character complexly written and performed. 

SANTOSH is represented by Mk2 Sales with no news of UK distribution as yet. 

SEPTEMBER SAYS written & directed by Ariane Labed. UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Greece 2024. 

Another UK co-production, competing for the Un Certain Regard. Based on a novel called ‘Sisters’ by Daisy Johnson, Ariane Labed’s adaptation makes for a tense watch – a study of adolescence and bullying, through the characters of two interdependent sisters born less than a year apart: September (the title referring to her frequent demands of “September says… “) and July (always “silly July”).  When September is suspended from school, July begins to explore her own individuality. Formerly an actor, known for ATTENBERG, SEPTEMBER SAYS marks a confident debut for Labad, with impressively in-sync performances from Mia Tharia and Pascale Kann as the sisters and by Rakhee Thakrar as their mother trying to assert her own independence. 

SEPTEMBER SAYS is represented by Match Factory with no news of UK distribution as yet. 

GOOD ONE written & directed by India Donaldson. USA 2024. 

In Director’s Fortnight, and previously premiered at Sundance, we adored GOOD ONE – a beautifully written story of a young woman’s backpacking trip with her father and his best friend. 17 year old Sam, wise beyond her years, helps to mediate the clashes of egos between her elders. GOOD ONE assuredly takes its time in creating the understated vulnerability in its central character, and in building bonds only for trust to be broken when a line is crossed. A confident commentary on generational differences and gendered experiences, complete with luscious cinematography of the Catskill Mountains. 

GOOD ONE is represented by Visit Films with no news of UK distribution as yet.

EAT THE NIGHT written & directed by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel. France 2024. 

Also in Director’s Fortnight, and up for the Queer Palm, is EAT THE NIGHT. An ambitious project, pitched as a drug-fuelled thriller, but one that works best in simpler terms: as a deeply tender story about a brother-sister relationship, and at best in what is left unsaid between them. Pablo and Apolline have grown up together playing Darknoon, an online fantasy video game - a shared past time which is threatened both by the impending death of the game and by Pablo’s neglect of his sister in favour of his new boyfriend, Night. Directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel deftly transport us between these two worlds: between its fascinating virtual universe and the very nihilistic everyday life in which the protagonists’ struggle.

EAT THE NIGHT is represented by Mk2 Sales with no news of UK distribution as yet. 

THE FALLING SKY directed by Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha & Eryk Rocha. Brazil, Italy, France 2024. 

Here I am, letting myself be filmed… Are you really going to be our allies?

An immersive documentary, opening with a seven minute un-cut scene in which we watch a group of Indigenous people striding towards the camera, from one part of the Amazon to another, to defend their land from the miners who threaten it. Titled after a book of the same name, by shaman Davi Kopenawa, inspired by the reahu ritual, a collective ceremony to hold up the sky, THE FALLING SKY amplifies the voices of the Yanonami people. Along with scenes in which we’re entranced in their everyday lives, traditions and struggles are sections in which they’re interviewed direct to camera - sections for which as a white audience member - “commodity people” - felt to be powerfully confronted with and reminded of our complicity in the killing and poisoning of their land. 

Thanks go to Film Hub London for supporting our costs to go to Cannes.


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