This year’s Cannes Film Festival launched amid a storm of protest and controversy this year. In the midst of a tumultuous festival, London Film School’s own alumni have also made their mark.
LFS graduate Zhannat Alshanova is due to show her grad film, 'End of Season', on 17 May. The prestigious Cinéfondation had 2,426 submissions this year by film schools all over the world and selected 17. Of the 20 directors, 12 of them are women.
In Cannes since last week, Zhannat described the festival as “an explosion of people and culture” and incredibly exciting. “The Cinéfondation programme is a formative place to be as an emerging director,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities to meet other filmmakers and it’s a great platform for early connections in the industry.”
Zhannat got her Filmmaking MA in 2015 and 'End Of Season' was her 10-minute grad film shot predominantly in her native Kazakhstan. “The shoot in Kazakhstan was filled with great energy from a wonderful cast and crew,” Zhannat says, describing the intimate process. “We slept in the same place we were shooting and it meant everyone could really focus on their creative work.”
Zhannat will be in the running to win the Cinéfondation Prize 17 May. This is not London Film School’s first nomination in Cannes; in 2016 LFS graduate Hamid Ahmadi’s ‘In The Hills’ won second prize at Cinéfondation, with the film subsequently screening at TIFF. And grad film 'Leidi' by Simón Mesa Soto won the Palme d'Or in 2014.
Photo Credit: 'End of Season' by Zhannat Alshanova, DOP: Cem Demirer
An area of Cannes that has selected several LFS graduates this year is The Factory, the segment of the festival that spotlights films from different countries and regions each year. This year it’s the Tunisia Factory celebrating a diverse range of Tunisian stories and filmmakers. Among these are LFS graduates Anissa Daoud and Aboozar Amini who’ll be presenting their short 'Best Day Ever' a story told from four points of views over the course of an afternoon in one home. Alongside them, Fateme Ahmedi presented 'Leila’s Blues' on 9 May as part of the Tunisia Factory, a story about a woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.
Photo Credit: Tunisia Factory, photographer: Fateme Ahmadi
On the production side LFS is also represented in the European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move programme this year, with alumna Birgitta Björnsdóttir who co-produced 'Woman At War' was part of Cannes’ Film Festival Critics’ Week, garnering praise from Variety for its tale of one woman tackling the environmental crisis “one pylon at a time in this “gloriously Icelandic” feature.
Photo Credit: 'Woman At War' by Benedikt Erlingsson, DoP Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson
Cries for further equality and diversity will continue in this moment of post-MeToo reckoning but already the results of the effort of Time’s Up and female filmmakers and activists have begun to speed up change. In the meantime, LFS’s predominantly female and immensely diverse body of graduates represented at this year’s Cannes Festival remains something to be proud of.
Written by Roisin Agnew