The Cannes Film Market, or Marché du Film, has long been the place where deals for the biggest independent movies come together. In 2018, FilmNation and CAA Media Finance sold their sexy spy thriller The 355 (at the time just a scriptless concept) on the back of a dramatic photo op on the Carlton Beach featuring the film’s A-list cast of Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o and Fan Bingbing. The next year saw the launch of $150 million Moonfall by AGC Studios and CAA, which also presold worldwide in Cannes before a second’s worth of footage had been shot. But the lackluster performance of those two would-be tentpoles (The 355 has grossed $28 million worldwide to date, Moonfall some $43 million) and shifts in the international marketplace — including a rise in global buyout deals from streaming giants like Netflix and Apple TV+, which tend to buy finished films, not scripted packages — have turned the Marché’s focus toward smaller, more art house titles.
“The presale market still exists, but there are fewer packages out there,” notes Jonathan Kier, president of Upgrade Productions and Bron Releasing. “Part of this has to do with the streamers and studios, which don’t necessarily buy different films, but they tend to buy finished films, not at script stage.”
Kier also points to the commercial success of art house titles such as Drive My Car ($15 million global box office to date) and The Worst Person in the World ($16.5 million), both of which sold as finished films in Cannes in 2021. “It pays to have a diverse and eclectic slate,” he says.
“Diverse” and “eclectic” are two words to describe the buzziest films heading to the Marché this year, which in place of cookie-cutter action movies has dramas, thrillers and comedies featuring the likes of Julia Garner, Juliette Binoche, Woody Harrelson and Parasite star Song Kang-ho.
DIRECTOR Hirokazu Kore-eda
STARS Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, singer Lee Ji-eun (aka IU)
BUZZ The Asian film boom, which catapulted to new heights with Cannes 2019 winner Parasite, continues apace, and this drama, from 2018 Palme d’Or winner Kore-eda (Shoplifters) — the first Korean-language film from the Japanese director — comes equipped with an all-star cast, including Parasite lead Song.
SALES CJ Entertainment
DIRECTOR Lukas Dhont
STARS Émilie Dequenne, Léa Drucker
BUZZ The sophomore effort from Belgian auteur Dhont, whose 2018 transgender drama Girl was an art house crossover, should appeal to specialty distributors worldwide. The drama focuses on an intense friendship between two 13-year-old boys and how it’s suddenly disrupted.
SALES The Match Factory
DIRECTOR Coky Giedroyc
STARS Aisling Bea, Alice Lowe
BUZZ Mainstream distributors looking for the next Bohemian Rhapsody may tune in to this Brit comedy-musical, based on a hit stage play and modeled on ’90s mega boy band Take That.
SALES Bron Releasing
DIRECTOR Ali Abbasi
STARS Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Mehdi Bajestani
BUZZ Iranian-Danish director Abbasi had his breakout at Cannes in 2018 with the dark fairy tale Border. This follow-up, a serial-killer story set in Iran involving a man trying to rid the holy city of Mashhad of “immoral women,” is certain to get a look from premium art house distributors.
SALES Wild Bunch
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
DIRECTOR Francis Lawrence
BUZZ The prequel to the multibillion-dollar film franchise is spoken for in the U.S., with Lionsgate setting a November 2023 release, but international is still available. And while stars have yet to be attached, A-listers are assured.
DIRECTOR Shane Atkinson
STARS Steve Zahn, Jared Harris, John Magaro
BUZZ High-concept thrillers are a mainstay of indie distributors worldwide, who will be checking out this title, which promises to give a comedic twist to the hit-man genre: First Cow star Magaro plays a down-and-outer who is mistaken for a hired killer and decides to play along, only to run into trouble when the real pro (Harris) arrives, demanding payment.
SALES The Exchange
DIRECTOR Lee Tamahori
STARS Guy Pearce, Te Kohe Tuhaka
BUZZ Die Another Day and Once Were Warriors director Tamahori can guarantee full-on action but this title, set in 1830s New Zealand against the early, and violent, contact between European settlers and Maori tribes, should also appeal to higher-end theatrical distributors.
SALES Mister Smith Entertainment
DIRECTOR Rupert Sanders
STARS Bill Skarsgård, FKA twigs
BUZZ The long-gestating reimagining of James O’Barr’s graphic novel is finally coming to market, with the IT star playing the undead avenger of his and his fiance’s murder.
DIRECTOR Pierre Morel
STARS Kate Beckinsale
BUZZ Straight-up action from the director of Taken, this spy-thriller, with Underworld star Beckinsale as a CIA agent blackmailed by terrorists into betraying her country to save her kidnapped husband, should be a no-brainer buy for mainstream distributors and top-tier streamers.
Maybe I Do
DIRECTOR Michael Jacobs
STARS Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, William H. Macy, Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey
BUZZ Romantic comedies with A-list casts are a rarity, which should give this project, a multigenerational tale in which couple Michelle and Allen (Roberts and Bracey) seek out advice from their parents on how to make marriage work, extra appeal.
SALES Endeavor Content, WME Independent
DIRECTOR Lee Jung-Jae
STAR Lee Jung-Jae
BUZZ The built-in marketing hook of this “find the mole” Korean spy thriller — the directorial debut of Squid Game actor Lee Jung-Jae, who also stars — should make it an easy sell for mainstream buyers and the ancillary markets.
SALES Megabox Plus M
Land of Bad
DIRECTOR William Eubank
STARS Russell Crowe,
BUZZ Thanks to their value to the streaming market, mid-range action thrillers are back in fashion, making sales for this actioner — starring Crowe as an Air Force drone pilot supporting Hemsworth’s Delta Force soldier on a mission that goes horribly wrong — a foregone conclusion.
SALES Highland Film Group
DIRECTOR Uberto Pasolini
STARS Juliette Binoche, Ralph Feinnes
BUZZ The English Patient co-stars reunite in this new take on Homer’s The Odyssey (Fiennes as Odysseus, Binoche as his long-waiting wife Penelope), which should prove irresistible for art-house distributors worldwide.
SALES HanWay Films
The Royal Hotel
DIRECTOR Kitty Green
STARS Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving, Julia Garner
BUZZ The production team behind Oscar winner The Power of the Dog aims for a similar upscale audience for this thriller on toxic masculinity. Green’s follow-up to #MeToo drama The Assistant features her Assistant star Garner and The Matrix Resurrections’ Henwick as backpackers in Australia who take jobs tending bar at a rough pub.
SALES HanWay/UTA Independent/Cross City Films
Triangle of Sadness
DIRECTOR Ruben Östlund
STARS Woody Harrelson, Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean
BUZZ Five years after Östlund’s art-industry takedown The Square won the Palme d’Or, the Swedish satirist is back with an ambitious dramedy skewering the world of high fashion and global capitalism. A must-see for prestige distributors and awards-savvy streamers everywhere.
SALES Co-Production Office
DIRECTORS Riley Keough, Gina Gammell
STARS Robert Stover, LaDainian Crazy Thunder
BUZZ The directorial debut of Zola star Keough (co-directing with Gammell), which tells interlocking stories of three Lakota men living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, could appeal to the specialty buyers who found success with Chloé Zhao’s similarly themed first films, Songs My Brother Taught Me and The Rider.
SALES Protagonist/ CAA Media Financing
Wild Four O’Clocks
DIRECTOR Peter Craig
BUZZ: After writing The Batman, Craig is well-practiced in generational family trauma. The package starring vehicle for Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays a larger-than-life but estranged grandmother of two young boys that are now in her care after their father goes to prison. Regualr Oscar nominee Marc Platt is attached to produce.
SALES CAA Media Finance and Protagonist Pictures