On the Cannes Case: nine picks for the 2024 Festival de Cannes

Ahead of this year’s Cannes, Rafa Sales Ross highlights nine films playing at the Croisette, including a tropical noir, a Céline Sciamma script and new dramas starring Saltburn’s Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan.

To follow up a year in which two competition titles—Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest and Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall—not only soared on the festival circuit but crowned a stellar awards season with Best Picture nominations (and some wins in other categories) would already have been quite a task for the Cannes Film Festival. And this is without having to factor in the Hollywood strikes that brought the industry to a standstill in late 2023.

Artistic director Thierry Frémaux put all worries to rest with a lineup that includes two-time Palme d’Or winner Francis Ford Coppola’s return to Cannes with his long-anticipated passion project Megalopolis; Kevin Costner’s Western epic Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1; George Miller’s prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga; body horror king David Cronenberg back again with The Shrouds; and, of course, Yorgos Lanthimos’s speedy follow-up to the beloved Poor Things in Kinds of Kindness. Not to mention a jury headed by none other than Greta Gerwig.

But Cannes is, of course, as much a showcase for cinema’s most lauded veterans as it is a place of discovery. Now Oscar-winning director Justine Triet first announced her talents to the world exactly a decade ago when her directorial debut, Age of Panic, played the ACID (Association for the International Distribution of Independent Cinemas) sidebar at the festival, and Andrea Arnold, who returns this year with Bird, is one of the few female filmmakers whose first feature played in competition at Cannes, with Red Road in 2006.

Including several strands within its official selection plus a handful of parallel sidebars, it can be hard to keep track of all the films about to kick-start their festival journeys on the Croisette. In between packing our bags and anxiously dwelling on schedules, we sat down to bring you a list of some of the films we are most excited to see at Cannes this year. Plus, you can always keep an eye out for our comprehensive festival coverage as we land on the French Riviera with a bag full of protein bars, an ergonomic backpack and our famous microphone.

Oh, Canada

Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Section: Competition

After having his bath water slurped in Emerald Fennell’s family-movie-night-wrecking Saltburn—and dyeing his luscious hair jet black to embody Elvis in Sofia Coppola’s melancholic Priscilla—our favorite Australian heartthrob Jacob Elordi is back on the big screen with Oh, Canada, courtesy of our favorite Facebook member, Paul Schrader. The American director behind First Reformed, as well as the writer behind Taxi Driver, Schrader marks two reunions with Oh, Canada: he’s back working with his American Gigolo star Richard Gere and once again adapting a Russell Banks novel almost 30 years after Affliction.

Elordi and Gere play two iterations of Leonard Fife, a Canadian American writer who, on the brink of death, is forced to confront the guilt of having fled to Canada to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War as a young man. This being a Schrader film, we’re certainly in for an existential insight into notions of mortality, duty and shame, and—if that wasn’t enough—the two leads are joined by a stellar cast that includes Uma Thurman, Michael Imperioli and Kristine Froseth.


Directed by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, written by Maddin
Section: Out of Competition

In perhaps one of the greatest spoof press releases, director Guy Maddin described his first feature film in seven years, Rumours, as “an elevated dramedy and erotico-political threnody cum sylvan moodbank” bound to send cinema—and humanity—into “shocking new territory.” The accompanying still is just as bonkers, with Alicia Vikander crawling behind a gigantic, realistic-looking brain nested within a dreamlike forest.

Vikander is joined by Charles Dance and Cate Blanchett (whom Maddin got in touch with after the TÁR star praised his work during a visit to the Criterion Closet) to tell the story of seven leaders of the world’s wealthiest liberal democracies who get lost in the woods while tasked with drafting a statement to address an increasingly perilous global crisis. Rumours is pruned to tap into Maddin’s signature penchant for the bizarro, with the first released footage offering a surreal glimpse into this bonkers political satire.


Written and directed by Andrea Arnold
Section: Competition

Right after Saltburn took social media by storm last winter, Barry Keoghan appeared riding a scooter through a busy city center while donning a French beret, a thick golden chain and covered from top to bottom in tattoos. This was the world’s initial glance at Andrea Arnold’s first foray into fiction since 2016’s Cannes Jury Prize-winning American Honey. Oscar-nominated Keoghan exited Ridley Scott’s Gladiator II to film Arnold’s Bird instead, having previously mentioned the director as a dream collaborator. The plot of Bird is fairly guarded, but we know the Irish actor plays a character named Bug, with Passages star (and Letterboxd favorite) Franz Rogowski portraying the titular character.

It’s easy to see why Keoghan would be so drawn to working with Arnold, whose directorial style is heavily guided by her actors. Speaking about shooting Bird, Rogowski told IndieWire that the director would “wait for the right moment to come, like a hunter.” Six out of Arnold’s seven features have played at Cannes, so Bird is sure to be one of this year’s buzziest titles.

On Becoming a Guinea Fowl

Written and directed by Rungano Nyoni
Section: Un Certain Regard

Yet another talent to start their career at Directors’ Fortnight, Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni is set to return to Cannes a year after being on the festival’s main jury and seven years after her debut drama, I Am Not a Witch, left the Croisette to become a festival darling, be nominated for ten—and win three—British Independent Film Awards and act as the United Kingdom’s entry for the Oscars.

Picked up by powerhouse indie distributor A24 on the lead-up to the festival, the plot for On Becoming a Guinea Fowl is currently kept tightly under wraps, but we do know it is a dramedy exploring family relationships in Zambia and Guinea and is described as “very strong” by Cannes Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux.

The Balconettes

Directed by Noémie Merlant, written by Merlant and Céline Sciamma
Section: Midnight Screening

It’s a Portrait of a Lady on Fireone of Letterboxd’s highest-rated narrative features—reunion in Cannes five years after the film became the first female-directed winner of the Queer Palm in 2019. Céline Sciamma helped pen the script for Noémie Merlant’s sophomore directorial effort, which follows three roommates meddling in the lives of their neighbors from their balcony during a heat wave in Marseille. This being a horror comedy, things take a bloody turn.

Merlant stepping into genre feels like a sharp turn from her directing debut, Mi Iubita, Mon Amour, a more muted romantic drama set during a holiday in Romania. The Balconettes will tap into Merlant’s first memories of cinema, with the actor-turned-director saying that the film’s use of gore as a way to discuss female violence and victimization is heavily influenced by Asian horror cinema and the films she would watch with her sister during their teenage years. It sounds like the perfect double-bill with another one of this year’s hotly anticipated titles also directed by a French female director, Coralie Fargeat’s Margaret Qualley vehicle The Substance.

Viet and Nam

Written and directed by Truong Minh Quy
Section: Un Certain Regard

The first Vietnamese film to be programmed in Official Selection at Cannes, Truong Minh Quy’s follow-up to the 2019 documentary The Tree House tells the story of two miners, Nam and Việt, young men who know their time together is limited as Nam plans to emigrate in search of a better life across the sea. The departure, however, can’t happen as long as the remains of Nam’s soldier father are still lying somewhere deep within the earth, unknown by his loved ones.

Shot on luscious 16mm, Viet and Nam appears to unravel like a poetic musing on the sensuous, urgent relationship between two men trapped between tradition and modernity while also touching upon the open wounds of a country still processing the grief and the anger of its war-addled past. Just last year, Vietnamese director Phạm Thiên Ân won the Camera d’Or with Directors’ Fortnight standout Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, so Quy’s promising love story seems destined for greatness this year. 


Written and directed by Halfdan Olav Ullmann Tøndel
Section: Un Certain Regard

There are few working actors today as booked and busy as Renate Reinsve, whose career was launched in style by winning the Best Actress prize at Cannes back in 2021 for Joachim Trier’s millennial classic The Worst Person in the World. Armand marks the fourth Reinsve film to hit major festivals this year, following Sundance entries Handling the Undead and A Different Man, as well as Berlinale competition title Another End.

Here, Reinsve plays Elizabeth, a mother called into a parent meeting at her son’s school on short notice. The titular boy has been accused of something grave, but exactly what, we don’t know. Armand takes place during one long afternoon as the escalating tensions between Elizabeth, the school faculty and two other parents reach increasingly dangerous levels. With a plot reminiscent of this year’s brilliant Oscar-nominated The Teachers’ Lounge and produced by The Worst Person in the World’s team, can Armand land Reinsve her second Best Actress at Cannes in fewer than five years?

Motel Destino

Directed by Karim Aïnouz, written by Wislan Esmeraldo and Mauricio Zacharias
Section: Competition

Motel Destino marks Karim Aïnouz’s fourth film in Cannes in the past five years, joining Grand Prize-winner Invisible Life, Mariner of the Mountains and the Brazilian-Algerian director’s first English-language film, Firebrand. With his latest feature, Aïnouz seems to get back to the motifs of earlier works like Madame Satã and Futuro Beach with an erotic thriller about the titular roadside motel, run by brute Elias and frustrated wife Dayana. The arrival of a mysterious man on the run from the police disturbs the steady routine of the small-town business and kick-starts Aïnouz’s web of desire, power and liberation.

Labeled a “tropical noir”, the film marks yet another collaboration between Aïnouz and French cinematographer Hélene Louvart. The first released stills showcase the decaying motel drenched in neon lights and juxtaposed against the clear skies of the Brazilian northeast. Move over Challengers; we seem to have scored ourselves a potential new sizzling love triangle.

It Doesn’t Matter

Written and directed by Josh Mond
Section: ACID

The youngest of the Cannes sidebars, ACID was launched in 1993 by the French Independent Films Association as a means to shine a light on indie films still on the hunt for distribution. One such offering this year is the long-awaited sophomore effort from Josh Mond. The American director took Sundance by storm in 2015 with James White, a drama in which the titular character, played by an up-and-coming Christopher Abbott, was forced into maturity by his mother’s terminal diagnosis.

It Doesn’t Matter reunites Mond with Abbott, now one of the hottest actors of his generation and fresh out of Yorgos Lanthimos’s Oscar-winning Poor Things, in a meta-comedy about the seven-year friendship between a budding film director and Alvaro, a man from Staten Island who must confront lingering issues in their relationship in order to heal and move on with his seemingly stunted life.

The 77th annual Festival de Cannes runs from May 14 to 25, 2024. Greta Gerwig is serving as jury president.

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