What to See: Cannes 2021

Last year, it was cancelled due to the pandemic. So this year, the Cannes Film Festival’s return feels very special indeed. Below, ASFF highlights five things to look out for this year, from films to strands.

Cinema and Climate

This year, the festival is truly pushing the environmental message – and not just because its encouraging attendees to bring their own refill bottles for water rather than contributing to more plastic waste. This new strand features several eco-documentaries including the India-set Invisible Demons from filmmaker Rahul Jain, and Bigger Than Us, which has been produced by French actress Marion Cotillard. The real draw in this strand might well be The Year of the Everlasting Storm, an anthology work from seven filmmakers addressing the pandemic.

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson is back in Cannes with a film that simply couldn’t premiere anywhere else. Set to be Cannes’ opening movie last year, before the festival was cancelled, it was thankfully held over for a year. Now its appearing in competition next week, and this French-set love letter to journalism sees Anderson work with an incredible roster of talent, from usual collaborators like Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray to newcomers to Wes world, such as The Handmaid’s Tale star Elizabeth Moss.

British Cinema

British filmmakers may not have been selected for main competition, but three established female directors are back with their latest efforts. This week, in Director’s Fortnight, Joanna Hogg unveiled The Souvenir Part II, the follow-up to her semi-autobiographical drama starring Honor Swinton Byrne as a filmmaker student. The Selfish Giant’s Clio Barnard also sees her new film, the interracial relationship tale Ali & Ava, play in the same strand. And Cannes regular Andrea Arnold is on hand with her experimental new work, Cow.


The festival opened with Leos Carax’s musical Annette, but fellow French director Julie Ducournau may well grab more of the headlines with this out-there follow-up to her 2016 debut, Raw, in which a young woman developed a craving for human flesh. Here, former Cannes Best Actor winner Vincent Lindon plays a father that is reunited with his son who disappeared ten years earlier. The title – oddly – refers to a metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, often used in medical prostheses. The trailer makes it look like David Cronenberg meets Fast & The Furious.

In Competition

Cannes wouldn’t be Cannes without a smattering of old ‘friends’ of the festival. This year’s competition line-up contains three former Palme d’Or winners. Italy’s Nanni Moretti is back with his bourgeois drama Three Floors. French filmmaker Jacques Audiard returns with Paris 13th District, starring Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant in this story of friends and lovers. And Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul will present Memoria, featuring Tilda Swinton as a Scottish traveller haunted by visions.

The Cannes Film Festivals runs until 17 July. For more details click here.

James Mottram