'Miss Sunshine' star Dano to make directorial debut at Cannes

Fiachra GIBBONS
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Zoe Colette, Ed Oxenbould, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan attend the 'Wildlife' Premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

Hollywood star Paul Dano's much-anticipated directorial debut, "Wildlife", will open Critics' Week at the Cannes film festival next month, the organisers said Monday.

The film by the "There Will Be Blood" and "Little Miss Sunshine" actor features his friend Jake Gyllenhaal, who played opposite Dano in the Oscar-nominated "Prisoners" in 2013.

The film is based on a Richard Ford novel about a teenager watching his parents' marriage fall apart.

Critics' Week director Charles Tesson said it includes an "extremely impressive" performance from British actress Carey Mulligan, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in "An Education", the coming-of-age drama based on journalist Lynn Barber's bestselling memoir.

"Paul Dano shows himself to be a true cineaste in his first feature film," Tesson told AFP, "a profoundly human portrait at the disintegration of an American family... done with elegant classicism."

The parallel event for first- and second-time directors, which starts on May 9, the day after the main Cannes festival, also features a parody of the life of a superstar footballer not unlike Cristiano Ronaldo called "Diamantino".

Although its Portugese-American co-director Gabriel Abrantes has said that the film is "not really about" the Real Madrid star, Tesson said the "delightful off-the-wall" comedy would ring bells with football fans.

- Women dominate -

Unlike the main festival, which has been criticised for its dearth of female talent, Critics' Week is dominated by films by and about women.

While only three of the 18 films competing for the top Palme d'Or prize are by women, they make up the majority in the Critics' Week competition.

Indian director Rohena Gera turns the romantic comedy on its head in her first feature, "Sir", Tesson said, a master-servant love story that shakes class and caste taboos starring rising Bollywood actress Tillotama Shome.

"One Day" by the Hungarian Zsofia Szilagyi follows the manic day of an overstretched working mother trying to hold her own and her family's life together, while "Woman at War" is the "funny and stirring" story of an Icelandic environmental activist.

Young documentary-maker Anja Kofmel investigates the murder of her cousin, a journalist who was killed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, in her film, "Chris the Swiss", which is partly animated.

"Sauvage" takes on the rarely touched world of male prostitution while another gritty French film "Sheherazade" dives into the chaotic life of a young prostitute and her boyfriend in the port of Marseille.

French star Romain Duris plays a union stalwart whose wife leaves him with their children in the Belgium drama "Our Battles", which is being shown out of competition.

The line-up for the main competition at Cannes is markedly more political than usual, with an Iranian and Russian director who are banned from leaving their countries, in the running for the Palme d'Or.

It is highly unlikely that Iran's Jafar Panahi and Russia's Kirill Serebrennikov will be able to attend, despite pleas by festival organisers and the French authorities.

The world's biggest film festival runs from May 8 to 19.