Why Cinema Remains King at Cannes & The Opportunity For India To Shine

From bold debuts to restored classics, eight Indian films take Festival de Cannes by storm.

May 15, 2024

In its 77th year, Festival de Cannes has become synonymous with glamour, prestige, and groundbreaking cinema. The idea behind the film festival was to celebrate the art of cinema and foster dialogue among nations through film. Its inaugural edition in 1946, originally scheduled for 1939, but postponed due to the war, showcased an eclectic mix of cinematic masterpieces from around the globe, setting the stage for decades of cinematic excellence. In 2024, Festival de Cannes (May 14-25, 2024) has become a global cinema, art and entertainment extravaganza. The Cannes Film Festival opened on Tuesday with the unveiling of the Feature Film Jury of this 77th edition presided by over by American actress and director Greta Gerwig and the presentation of an honorary Palme d’Or for American actor Meryl Streep.

This year, Festival de Cannes will see more than 100 films showcased in nine primary categories across 10 days. In the competition categories, the winners will be selected by a jury of peers; this year the names include Greta Gerwing, Lily Gladstone, Sy Omar, Juan Antonio Bayona and Eva Green amongst others.

India with its rich cinematic traditions, has made a prominent presence at Cannes. From Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival to Anurag Kashyap’s Kennedy last year, Indian filmmakers have been an integral part of the Riviera’s grand stage. However, it has been decades since an Indian filmmaker bagged the prestigious Palme d’Or. Neecha Nagar continues to be the only Indian film to win the Grand Prix although, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali received Prix du Document Humain in 1956.

After 2022, when India was the first ever country of honour at the Marche’ Du Film, one of the largest and most important film markets in the world that takes place alongside Festival de Cannes, 2024 is turning out to be another stellar year for Indian filmmakers. There are eight Indian films that are all set to steal the spotlight at Festival de Cannes 2024:

1. All We Imagine as Light

Directed by Payal Kapadia

 

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This film is the first Indian entry in the Palme d’Or competition in three decades. Set in Mumbai, it follows two nurses, Prabha and Anu, sharing an apartment. Prabha grapples with an unexpected gift from her estranged husband, while Anu searches for privacy with her boyfriend in the crowded city. Their contrasting journeys explore love, desire, and self-discovery against the backdrop of the bustling hospital and a hopeful beach trip.

2. Santosh

Directed by Sandhya Suri

 

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This film stars actor Shahana Goswami who plays the titular character of a young woman who inherits her husband’s job as a police constable after his death. When a young girl is found dead, Santosh is pulled into the investigation alongside a strong-willed inspector. This film is one of the two Indian films under the Un Certain Regard category.

3. Sister Midnight

Directed by Karan Kandhari

 

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Sister Midnight is a black comedy starring Radhika Apte who plays a small-town woman thrust into an arranged marriage in Mumbai. Confined with a spineless husband, her frustrations morph into a ruthless, feral force. The film will be at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and is the only Indian film to make the cut in this category.

4. In Retreat

Directed by Maisam Ali

 

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Premiering in the independent ACID section, In Retreat explores the complexities of homecoming. A man returns to his native Ladakh after a long absence. The film delves into themes of belonging, displacement, and grappling with one’s roots against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayan region.

5. Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know

Directed by Chidanand Naik

 

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This is a Kannada short film by FTII student Chidanand Naik, that has made it to Cannes. A stolen rooster disrupts a village, igniting chaos and an old prophecy. The elderly culprit’s family faces exile. This student film, selected for La Cinef, explores tradition, superstition, and the ripple effects of a single act.

6. The Shameless

Directed by Konstantin Bojanov

 

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Although directed by Bulgarian Konstantin Bojanov, the story of The Shameless is very much Indian. An Indian sex worker, Renuka, escapes after a violent act. Seeking refuge, she forms a forbidden bond with Devika, another woman trapped in the cycle. Together, they embark on a perilous quest for freedom, challenging societal constraints in a pilgrimage towards hope.

7. Bunnyhood

Directed by Mansi Maheshwari

 

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Bunnyhood is an animated film by Mansi Maheshwari, featured in La Cinef category, which is an Official Selection of the Festival de Cannes to present and highlight films from film schools, whether fiction or animation. This graduation film uses a playful bunny character to explore self-discovery and the anxieties of artistic creation. Expect a visually captivating and introspective journey through the world of a budding artist, all rendered in the charming world of animation.

8. Manthan

Directed by Shyam Benegal

Carefully restored by crowd-sourcing funds, Manthan is a 1976 Shyam Benegal directorial that tells the story of India’s dairy revolution. It follows the clash between village farmers and a powerful milk cooperative, exploring themes of community, empowerment, and the fight for a better future.