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May 14, 2019

Five rising stars to watch for at Cannes film festival


Tue, May 14, 2019

CANNES: With the Cannes film festival´s main competition bursting with big-name stars and directors like Quentin Tarantino and Terrence Malick, we pick five rising talents to watch out for at this year´s festival:

Camila Morrone

Up to now she may be best known as Leonardo DiCaprio´s impossibly glamorous girlfriend, but the Argentinian model is about to make a name for herself as an actress to be reckoned with.

Her stand-out performance as a daughter of a opioid-addicted Iraq veteran in "Mickey and the Bear" brings real depth to the US indie film, which is showing in the festival´s ACID section.

Morrone, 21, has not picked her acting talent -- nor her looks -- up off the ground.

Both her parents were models and her mother Lucia Sola is a television star in Buenos Aires, although the 43-year-old is probably best known as Al Pacino´s erstwhile partner.

The pair are no longer together -- the 75-year-old Pacino having taken up with a younger actress last year. Morrone had regarded him as her "stepfather" during their nine years her mother and Pacino were together.

The two will be reunited on the Cannes red carpet with Pacino starring in Quentin Tarantino´s "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood".

Robert Eggers 

His debut film "The Witch" is regarded as a modern horror classic, and the famously obsessive young US director seems to have made no compromises for his second, "The Lighthouse", which is premiering in the Directors´ Fortnight.

Conditions on the set were so harsh, according to Robert Pattinson, who heads the cast alongside Willem Dafoe, that it was the "closest I´ve come to punching a director", the actor admitted.

An exhausted Pattinson described how he remonstrated with Eggers after he had to do one take five times on a freezing Nova Scotia beach.

"I feel like you´re just spraying a fire hose in my face," he told the director.

"And he was like, ´I was spraying a fire hose in your face.´ It was like some kind of torture," said Pattinson.

The pair are still firm friends, however, with the star sworn to silence on the plot of the historical black-and-white horror "set in the world of old sea-faring myths".

Waad al-Kateab 

The Syrian documentary maker faced an uphill struggle bringing her film to Cannes.

"For Sama" records five years of al-Kateab´s own life as an aspiring journalist in her beseiged hometown of Aleppo, marrying one of the last doctors in the city and giving birth to her daughter, to whom the film is dedicated.

The documentary is a kind of letter to the little girl, explaining how she was born into the conflict and what happened to her home.

Al-Kateab, who now lives in London, won an Emmy award in 2017 for her films from inside Aleppo for Britain´s Channel 4 News, which are believed to be the most watched of any reports from the war.

Her shocking footage of the struggle to save babies and children in the city´s final hospital -- in which she ended up living -- brought home the horror inflicted on civilians.

Jessica Hausner 

The Austrian director who wrote Michael Haneke´s "Funny Games" is the running for the Palme d´Or with her first film in English, "Little Joe".

This science-based chiller with Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox about a genetically engineered plant which affects every living creature it comes into contact with could well be her break-out film.

After making her Cannes debut with "Lovely Rita" way back in 2001, Hausner, now 46, has slowly built a glowing reputation with a handful of films such as "Hotel", "Amour Fou" and "Lourdes", which picked up four prizes at Venice in 2009.

Mati Diop 

The only African in the race for Cannes´ top prize, actress-turned-director Diop comes from Senegalese film royalty.

She is the niece of Djibril Diop Mambety, the pioneering maker of "Touki Bouki", a 1973 film premiered at Cannes which went on to inspire Beyonce and Jay-Z.

The pop power couple referenced the movie, in the form of the bull-horn handlebars of its heroes´ motorbike, in the poster for their 2014 tour "On The Run II".

French-born Diop, 36, the daughter of musician Wasis Diop, has already make a documentary about her uncle´s ground-breaking story about a couple who try to ride their bike all the way to France.

Her film, "Atlantics", is also about a group who decide to leave Senegal for a better life in Europe.

Cannes ups the glamour with $1 billion facelift

After years of living off their glamorous reputation, Cannes´s five-star hotels are getting a $1-billion makeover to make them fit to host Hollywood´s A-listers.

With eye-watering room rates during the film festival -- which starts Tuesday -- the French Riviera town´s ageing grand behemoths are spending a fortune to get back their glitz.

Its seafront strip, La Croisette, has become a long line of luxury boutiques in recent years, with top-end French and Italian brands like Chanel, Dior and Gucci vying for the jet set´s petty cash.

But over the years, some of the town´s historic hotels have been caught resting on their laurels -- a fact not lost on clients.

"We went to sleep a bit," admitted Michel Chevillon, head of the Cannes hoteliers union, which counts 133 establishments among its members.

"Bookings didn´t fall but there was a drop in customer satisfaction levels. And then the big international chains arrived.

"So to keep our share of the market, we had to get it just right," he added.

Huge sums are now being invested in the town´s luxury hotels, Chevillon said, none more so than by the Qatari owners of the Belle Epoque Carlton hotel, whose domed turrets elegantly dominate the seafront strip.

Their spending on the facelift is likely to reach 300 million euros ($337 million), he said.

34,000 euros a night 

But such an outlay was crucial, Chevillon argued, admitting that the sector had "got into a bit of a rut".

He reeled off a string of hotels that have undergone major work or expansion in recent years -- the Radisson Blu and the Marriott in 2009, then the Majestic in 2010 with a new wing.

The Martinez, Cannes biggest hotel with 409 rooms, reopened last year after an "unprecedented" 150-million-euro upgrade in which everything was redone.

Today, its swankiest suite costs 34,000 euros a night during the summer -- a rate that soars to an undisclosed amount during the film festival.

"And if you look at all the smaller independent hotels, which account for half of the 5,500 rooms in town, and which have been investing all year round... you´re not far from a billion euros over the decade," he calculated.

"For a town of 70,000 residents, that´s rare."

The myth of the French Riviera began in the late 19th-century when the European aristocracy began wintering there, with Cannes quickly becoming a destination to rival Paris, Barcelona, Vienna and Budapest.

Today its palatial villas are owned by Russian oligarchs and wealthy Gulf potentates, with Cannes a key destination on the luxury yacht circuit with Rolex, Louis Vuitton and Chopard just a few of the 70 top brands jostling for space along La Croisette.

It is also one of Europe´s top conference destinations drawing thousands for MIPCOM, the world´s biggest television and streaming market, and dozens of other prestigious events.

Buffing up 'the Bunker'

This week some 40,000 people from the world of cinema will descend on the town, among them 5,000 media professional, with hotels facing increasing competition from the explosion of private lets organised by the likes of Airbnb.

Roughly 6,000 homes will be let out this year.

In such a competitive market, hoteliers need to stay ahead of the curve in terms of design, using fabrics and materials that are bang on-trend and technology that is cutting edge, Chevillon said.

"After five years, decor is no longer fashionable. After seven, it´s not considered chic and after 10 it´s somewhat obsolete," he added.

The Martinez has bet on an unusual mix of pastel tones to complement its Art Deco heritage, which no hotelier would have dared in the past.

The Palais des Festivals -- where the films in competition are shown -- has also undergone a major makeover.

Known as the Bunker, this white concrete colossus with tinted windows brings in an annual 865 million euros from more than 50 events per year, of which 190 million euros is generated by the film festival.

Hastily built in 1982, it has recently undergone 100 million euros of renovation work, with a further investment of 62 million euros due by 2024, to add another cinema on the sixth floor and revamp areas around the red carpet.

"It will never be the Louvre but it´s definitely more attractive than it was," admitted Cannes mayor David Lisnard.