When the Cannes Film Festival's Official Selection was unveiled last week, many were surprised not to see one carry-over from the Sundance fest in the Un Certain Regard section -- in recent years, it's been something of a tradition for a Park City sensation (often the Grand Jury Prize winner) to compete again there, with the likes of "Precious" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" getting a second surge of festival buzz on the Croisette.
This year, Thierry Fremaux's team clearly thought nothing from Sundance 2014 was suitable, but the Directors' Fortnight sidebar has made up for it, including both Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash" and Jim Mickle's "Cold in July" in a name-heavy lineup. Starring Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer, "Whiplash" won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the US Dramatic section at Sundance, while Mickle's uproarious retro genre mash-up -- starring Michael C. Hall as a family man pulled into the underworld -- was one of the festival's most purely entertaining films.
Mickle is familiar to the Directors' Fortnight crowd, having competed there last year with his horror remake "We Are What We Are," but he's a newcomer compared to some of the veteran names in this year's section. 81-year-old British veteran John Boorman, the man behind such films as "Deliverance" and "Point Blank," will compete with his first feature in eight years: Korean War drama "Queen and Country" stars David Thewlis and Richard E. Grant, and was widely tipped to appear in Competition last week.
Even more senior than Boorman is documentary master Frederick Wiseman, hot off his gargantuan, critically beloved university study "At Berkeley" last year, who will compete with the self-explanatory "National Gallery," a study of the day-to-day workings of the vast London institution. French iconoclast Bruno Dumont will also unveil a TV project, police thriller "Li'l Quinquin," as a Special Screening in the section.
Most exciting to me is that Celine Sciamma's "Band of Girls" has been selected as the section's opening film -- Sciamma made a splash at Cannes a couple of years ago with her synchronised-swimming drama "Water Lilies," but really won my heart three years ago with "Tomboy," a butterfly-delicate story of childhood gender crisis that made my Top 10 that year. Her latest, a story of a Parisian girl gang, should play to her strengths; I was hoping to see it in Competition or Un Certain Regard, but opening the Fortnight is a pretty lofty position these days -- recent films to have done the honors include Pablo Larrain's Oscar-nominated "No" and Ari Folman's "The Congress."
The section has also secured a big-night closer. "Pride" is the second film (and the first in 15 years) by Tony-winning British theater director Matthew Warchus ("God of Carnage," "Matilda") and is based on the London stage hit "Last of the Haussmans"; it stars Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton in the true story of gay activists who came to the aid of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984.
Check out the full lineup on the next page.