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Cannes Film Festival Opens With More Netflix Drama and Too Few Female Directors (Again)

This story about the Cannes Film Festival first appeared in TheWrap’s Cannes magazine.

When competing for the Palme d’Or, “franchise” can be a four-letter word.

Sure, Cannes might program some out-of-competition would-be blockbusters here and there (this year’s entry is the Elton John biopic “Rocketman”), but examples of the F-word find little welcome in the discerning main competition of the world’s high temple of cinema — at least, not since “Shrek 2” somehow blustered its way in back in 2004.

Which makes it all the more ironic that the 2019 Cannes Film Festival feels in so many ways like a sequel to last year. We pick up the same storylines right where we left off. The war with Netflix rages on, with the streaming service staying away for the second year in a row. Female directors remain woefully under-represented. And certain hot-ticket titles (say, James Gray’s “Ad Astra”) remain conspicuously absent.

Also Read: Heavyweight Cannes Lineup Ties Record for Female Directors in Competition

In true sequel fashion, this year takes what worked so well last time and replicates it on a larger scale. Eight filmmakers, from critical favorites Céline Sciamma and Ira Sachs to intriguing wild cards Ladj Ly and Mati Diop, will make their competition debuts — a staggering number for a festival that has earned a reputation as an old boys club.

Of course, many of those old boys are here, as well. After dropping the axe on a number of longtime fixtures in 2018, Cannes extended the olive branch this year, ushering familiar faces such as Pedro Almodóvar and Jim Jarmusch back into the mix.

For some, the thought of catching up with so many eminences grises doesn’t quite get the blood flowing. The fact is, rooting for Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers to win a third Palme d’Or is a bit like rooting for the New England Patriots to make it back to the Super Bowl — it would make for an interesting statistic, if not a rousing story.

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And above all else, we return to Cannes for the stories. Not just those on screen, but the stories of careers made or broken at this very festival, because nowhere else in the world does a single ecstatic ovation have the power to change a director’s life.

Take Xavier Dolan. When the brash young filmmaker returns to present “Matthias & Maxime,” it will be due in no small part to the spontaneous, mid-film applause he drew with his 2014 competition debut, “Mommy.” At “Bacurau” director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Palais premiere, many of us will flash back to his 2016 red-carpet protest calling the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff a “coup” — and we’ll wonder if the outspoken director will offer a repeat performance now that his country has swung further to the right.

These stories are the very fabric of this festival. Rife with so much mythology and so much history, Cannes is its own kind of Expanded Cinematic Universe. The storylines play out year to year, introducing new characters, promoting supporting actors to leads while shuffling others off stage. Like all serialized narratives, the festival rewards attention and fosters obsession.

As in certain never-ending franchises, each entry is in dialogue with all that preceded it, and all that will follow.

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‘Wine Country’ Star Ana Gasteyer on How Amy Poehler’s Film Hits ‘Those Sweet Notes of Female Friendship’ (Exclusive Video)

Amy Poehler’s “Wine Country” was never meant to be a “ladies ‘Hangover,’” says star Ana Gasteyer. It was supposed to be a film about female friendships and the deeply rooted connections women have with each other.

“Initially, you think of this movie as a ladies ‘Hangover’ — it’s interesting because it’s very much about connection,” Gasteyer told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven. “It’s less about going crazy and being wacky. Amy didn’t want to make that movie either. We have a relationship rooted in huge history and the connection as women and a huge amount of solidarity as weirdo female comedians who came in at a time where we were just breaking some ground for female comedians. It was important to us that it was about those sweet notes of female friendship in addition to the better known ‘catfight’ and ruckus partying of men.”

“Wine Country” stars Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell, Tina Fey and Emily Spivey. The ladies go on a trip to Napa for a birthday, where they are forced to confront their issues and look past them for the sake of friendship. The film is based on actual trips the ladies take every year.

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In the past, there have been rumors of catfights on sets of certain films that starred a large number of female leads. For example, there was speculation that the women of “Ocean’s 8” weren’t getting along, but those rumors were quickly shut down by cast members like Anne Hathaway. Gasteyer said, “that’s somebody else’s myth about women.”

“Women, especially women of my generation and all of the women in my peer group are juggling huge careers, family responsibility, partnerships,” she said. “A getaway with your girlfriends for three days is really not about fighting. It’s about connecting deep and laughing hard and finding that part of yourself that identifies itself outside of your commitments to your family and your job. That’s a huge — not to be cheesy — huge gift. We get it once a year, so for us, that’s really sacred.”

While Gasteyer didn’t learn how to properly do the floss dance during the production of the film, she did learn a few things about wine country itself.

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“Wine country takes itself very seriously — the industry there is wine, and the production of the wine and the tannins and the notes and the conversation about wine is all very serious, so when you are there with seven comedian friends, it’s very hard to stay focused long enough to understand the grassy notes and the acidic aftertaste,” she said. “So we tended to make ourselves laugh before we got all the information we were supposed to get. Occasionally, I will ice a glass of wine, which is blasphemy in wine country. You are all but asked to leave… I also like to make a lot of noise about how expensive everything is – that’s my favorite game.”

“Wine Country” will start streaming on Netflix on Friday.

Watch the video above.

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Ana Lily Amirpour to Direct Female-Fronted ‘Cliffhanger’ Reboot

Ana Lily Amirpour is attached to direct the remake of Sylvester Stallone’s 1993 film “Cliffhanger,” which will now be led by a female cast.

Rocket Science announced on Wednesday that it has acquired the rights to “Cliffhanger” and will produce alongside Neal Moritz’s Original Film. Casting is underway for the film, and “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in talks to make a cameo.

Sascha Penn (“Creed II”) wrote the script about a heist and chase set among the treacherous Rocky Mountains.

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Moritz and Toby Jaffe will produce under their Original Film banner, alongside Thorsten Schumacher and partner Lars Sylvest for Rocket Science, which will also finance.

Rocket Science acquired the rights to “Cliffhanger” from StudioCanal and will be handling international sales when it introduces the film to buyers at Cannes. CAA Media Finance initially brokered the deal between Rocket Science and StudioCanal, which will continue to represent North American and Chinese rights.

“I am very excited to partner with Original Films and Rocket Science, who share my passion for the character-driven high-adrenalin survival movie; one of my favorite genres.  We are setting out to create a thrill-ride on the mountain which taps into the primal side of an action movie, where you see what a person is capable of doing to survive in the most extreme situations, pushed to the limits.  Add to that some high-stakes espionage and a badass female mountain climber as the lead and it becomes a truly epic reinvention of what made the original ‘Cliffhanger’ movie so fun and so thrilling,” Amirpour said in a statement.

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“I’ve been wanting to re-make this adrenaline filled survival thriller with a strong female protagonist – both in front of and behind the camera – for some time.  The elements came together with Ana Lily and Rocket Science and we look forward to gathering the rest of the pieces.  I’ve always wanted to make the movies I want to see — big at their core with characters which connect to the audience while simultaneously encouraging them to leave their house and go to a theater. ‘Cliffhanger’ is just that, in what we hope will be the first of an entirely new franchise,” Moritz said in a statement.

Amirpour is the writer and director of the critically acclaimed “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “The Bad Batch,” which starred Jason Momoa and Suki Waterhouse and won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Amirpour is also set to direct the Kate Hudson film “Blood Moon,” produced by John Lesher, with principal photography beginning in New Orleans next month. Rocket Science is likewise handling foreign sales on that project.

Moritz, under his Original Film banner, is the producer of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. His upcoming credits include “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and “Bloodshot.”

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Rocket Science’s slate at Cannes includes Azazel Jacobs’ “French Exit” starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges and Tracy Letts, Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” set to star Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen and Seth Rogen, Gary Shore’s “Queen Mary,” and Jonathan Jakubowicz’s “Resistance” starring Jesse Eisenberg, which is currently in post-production.

Front Row Entertainment is providing development finance for “Cliffhanger.”

Amirpour is repped by CAA; Momoa is represented by WME, and Penn is represented by Lit Entertainment Group and Attorney Gordon Bobb.

Amirpour’s attachment was first reported by Deadline.

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Baltimore TV Station Drops Anchor After On-Air Question About ‘Female, African American Mayors’

Longtime Baltimore television anchor Mary Bubala is out of a job this week after asking on-air if the city should continue to elect female, African American mayors.

Mary Bubala, who spent 15 years at Baltimore’s CBS affiliate WJZ-TV, was covering the recent resignation of the city’s scandal-plagued mayor Catherine Pugh, when she asked the question.

“We’ve had three female, African American mayors in a row,” Bubala said during an interview with Karsonya Whitehead, a professor at Loyola University Maryland, last Tuesday. “They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Is this a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”

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The moment flew by at the time, but eventually made its way to Twitter where hordes of users publicly called out Bubala.

On May 3, the anchor issued a public apology that currently remains pinned to the top of her Twitter page.

“Last night, during a live interview, I asked a question that did not come out the way I intended. I am so deeply sorry and sincerely regret the words I chose,” she said. “I appreciate those who have contacted me to share how this has impacted them. I am devastated that the words I used portray me as someone that I know I am not. I hope you allow me the opportunity to regain your trust.”

The story was first reported by the Baltimore Sun. Reps for WJZ-TV did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap, but Bubala herself confirmed the news of her departure in a second apology posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

“I wanted to do an on-air apology but was not allowed. I hope that the people of Baltimore know that I would never do anything to hurt anyone,” Bubala said, while adding that she initially received support from her network. “Unfortunately, I now stand in the path of the tornado. WJZ was forced to let me go. I am saddened and shocked by this decision.”

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