Matimba Kabalika’s Cannes Diary

Matimba talks about the quest to find the next Andrea Arnold at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

6 June 2016
Matimba Kabalika
By Matimba Kabalika
Matimba looks after the talent development programme BFI NETWORK and manages the accompanying website.

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a girl with her hand in the air facing the sky
American Honey (2016)
When I head to Cannes to represent the BFI NET.WORK my mandate is clear. Seek out the most dynamic, world-class filmmakers and their films, see how high the bar is set on the world’s most renowned film festival stage, and find ways to inject that vitality, excellence and creativity into everything we do to support new and emerging filmmakers. 
 
It's also our immense privilege to be one of the partners that represent UK Film (at the UK Film Pavilion - more on that here) and watch and cheer proudly as British filmmakers are able to unveil their work to the world. This year the BFI Film Fund was behind two of the features in Official Competition, Ken Loach’s devastatingly pertinent I, Daniel Blake, (which won the Palme d’Or) and Andrea Arnold’s mesmerising American Honey (which picked up the jury prize). Over in the official competition of the shorts category, Britain has Sara Dunlop’s heady Dreamlands.
 
a girl puts make up on in the mirror
Dreamlands (2016)

Saturday 14 May

My first full day at the festival. First up on the menu was a film from the Critics Week line-up,  Julia Ducournau’s cannibal horror Raw. I went into the screening not knowing much about it apart from the fact that it was first feature from a female filmmaker. (Yes, yes and yes). The film was definitely number two on my list of festival highlights (I'll come back to number one later). Bursting with energy, and with skilfully considered filmmaking throughout, I was utterly ensconced from the get go; every frame was a feast for the eyes – and yes– pun intended.
 
The film centres around Justine, a young, eager, intelligent woman starting her first year of veterinary college who arrives a staunch vegetarian, but soon turns into a cannibal: this alone should have you Googling the trailer right now. It’s bloody, bold, brave and brilliant. Ducournau serves up the beloved (especially of first features) coming-of-age tale, but keeps it fresh by putting front and centre a young woman's burgeoning sexuality and self-discovery in the most potent, unabashed way possible.
 
The film was made through the Torino Film Lab and shows you just how ambitious and sophisticated you can be with genre. A challenge to any filmmaker drawn to the dark, or slightly absurd, and yet who still holds a flame for genre. A must-see. 
 
close up of a girls face
Raw (2016)
 
For the second year running the British Council, BFI Film Fund and BFI NET.WORK jointly hosted a reception to–as the name implies–put a spotlight on UK talent at the festival. The event is held at the UK Film Pavilion and it’s our chance to show the international folk the future stars of the UK industry. It’s so amazing to see producers, writers and directors talking to festival programmers, agents and funders from across the world. My favourite bit is always hearing from people afterwards about connecting over a shared “favourite film of the festival so far”or better yet, when people come face to face with someone who has seen and loved their work. 
 
a lot of girls in a field covered in blood
Raw (2016)

Sunday 15 May

My day starts early meeting people who have requested to find out more about talent development opportunities in the UK
 
But today is really all about American Honey, and with everything crossed and the heavens smiling down on me, I get the text I've been hoping for–albeit at the 11th hour–“I’ve got a ticket for you.”
 
Now as you read on, I’d suggest putting on Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love in a Hopeless Place’. Not only does the song feature on the soundtrack, but it perfectly evokes the pure energy of the film. Now I said I’d come back to my number one festival highlight, and this screening was absolutely it. Maybe it was the magic of the Palais, the way Andrea rapped her way up the red carpet, (see e-40 Choices) or maybe it was Shia LaBeouf stopping for selfies with an eager public. But really it goes way, way beyond all that. 
 
For me it was a massive back-to-the-mandate moment. It was the pure creativity, passion and excellence of authored filmmaking, world-class on a world stage. This is what we aim to do; Discover, develop, and fund bold, original storytellers. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the talent from the previous night were potential makers of a future American Honey. From the red carpet to the credits, I saw everything about the evening and the film as a challenge: we must continue to ensure everything we do allows the unique voices of the future to be heard loud and clear. 
 
two women smiling on the red carpet at Cannes
Andrea Arnold and Sasha Lane