From Paul Thomas Anderson To Park Chan-Wook, 46 Movies (And A TV Series) That Could Light Up Film Festivals In 2021
Film lovers roll up. Here’s our annual list of movies that could have festivals drooling in 2021.
In the age of Covid-19, could has never felt more operative. With Sundance and Berlin reimagining their events next year, traditional festival paths are already diminishing, but here’s to hoping that the pandemic eases, and we get to see at least some of these anticipated movies in theaters and at marquee film events in the next 12 months. There is a bumper crop to choose from with so many having been held back or delayed from 2020.
The Power Of The Dog
Could Jane Campion, the first woman to ever win the Palme d’Or, be back in Cannes this year with her new drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Thomasin McKenzie? That will of course depend on whether Netflix and the French fest can bury the hatchet on their disagreement over the streamer’s windowing policy, but either way this is going to be a hot festival title next year. Pic follows a pair of brothers who own a large ranch in Montana and are pitted against each other when one of them gets married. It’s based on the book by Thomas Savage. Producers include See-Saw, which was behind Campion’s Top of the Lake.
Denzel Washington is playing the titular Shakespeare protagonist in a rare Joel Coen solo venture away from brother Ethan. The pic completed shooting during the pandemic and is now in post, so a festival debut in 2021 looks likely. The all-star cast also features Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan and Harry Meling as Malcolm. Scott Rudin produced for A24. The Coens’ last picture, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, debuted in Competition at Venice.
3000 Years Of Longing
George Miller’s first feature since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road sees Idris Elba star with Tilda Swinton in this fantasy-romance tale. Production kicked off in Australia in November with a planned September 2021 delivery, ruling out a return to Cannes next year for Miller, who took Fury Road to the Croisette for an Out of Competition berth in 2015. Will it be ready for a Venice and/or Toronto bow?
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley Project
What a wonderful story it would be if Tom Hanks, the first A-list celebrity to catch and recover from Covid-19, starred in the film that marked a triumphant return for Cannes in 2021. Luhrmann has history, having opened the 2013 edition of Cannes with The Great Gatsby. His latest, which has now wrapped after a pandemic-impacted shoot, stars Austin Butler as Presley. Warner Bros will release.
The Hand Of God
Cannes favorite Paolo Sorrentino became the latest high-profile international director to set a project up at Netflix with this intriguing drama set in the filmmaker’s hometown of Naples. We’re told this one is a very personal story and won’t be directly about soccer star Diego Maradona, who passed away in November and is commonly associated with the movie’s title. However, Maradona has been an enduring icon in Naples and Sorrentino grew up there so the late footballer will no doubt be a reference. He also appeared in Sorrentino’s previous film Youth, played by Roly Serrano. Producers are The Apartment Pictures.
Triangle Of Sadness
The anticipated follow-up to Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winner The Square is a fashion-world satire starring Harris Dickinson and Vicky Berlin as two models who are invited on a luxury cruise; when the yacht sinks, they are left stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires and a cleaning lady. Woody Harrelson is also among the cast. Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober produced. The film wrapped in November after a challenging, pandemic-impacted shoot.
Amelie filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet is back with this Netflix comedy set in the future following a group of bickering suburbanites who find themselves stuck together when an android uprising causes their well-intentioned household robots to lock them in for their own safety. Elsa Zylberstein, Isabelle Nanty and Manu Payet star. The movie is in post-production and should be ready for 2021 fests.
Born To Be Murdered
John David Washington and Alicia Vikander lead the cast of this thriller following a vacationing couple who fall trap to a violent conspiracy with tragic consequences. Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Antonia) is directing, having served as second unit director on several Luca Guadagnino pics including Call Me By Your Name; Guadagnino is serving as a producer on Filomarino’s movie. Netflix swooped on the project’s world rights in a deal with Endeavor Content and is planning to release in 2021.
A24’s Untitled Lila Neugebauer Project
Jennifer Lawrence is leading the cast of this drama, her first role after a year-long sabbatical. Acclaimed theater helmer Lila Neugebauer is making her feature film debut on the project, which is from first-time screenwriter Elizabeth Sanders. The story follows a U.S. soldier who suffers a traumatic brain injury while fighting in Afghanistan and struggles to adjust to life back home. Pic is backed by IAC Films and A24 and is being produced by Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Lawrence and Justine Polsky.
Isabelle Huppert and Riccardo Scamarcio lead this Italian-language feature about the titular Renaissance painter. Michele Placido’s 14th film shot in Naples this autumn. Wild Bunch is handling sales and has already closed pre-sales including Germany (Wild Bunch Germany), Australia & NZ (Palace) and Scandinavia (Njuta). 01 Distribution will distribute in Italy and Le Pacte will release in France.
Where Is Anne Frank?
This long-gestating feature animation from acclaimed Israeli director Ari Folman (the Oscar-nominated Waltz With Bashir and The Congress) tells the story of Kitty, the imaginary friend to whom Anne Frank dedicated her diary. Folman was granted privileged access to Frank’s original diary and family items for the film. Jani Thiltges is producing. Wild Bunch is repping sales.
Untitled Sandra Bullock/Nora Fingscheidt Project
Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis and Jon Bernthal are among the cast of this Netflix film about a woman released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime who re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. German filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt is making her English-language debut on the pic after helming the poplar System Crasher.
A Quiet Passion and Sunset Song filmmaker Terence Davies is helming this story about English poet and solider Siegfried Sassoon, with Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi playing the main character at different ages. Backers include the BBC, BFI and Creative England. Bankside is handling sales.
The Witch and The Lighthouse filmmaker Robert Eggers is back in the saddle with this Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century. The Witch actress Anya Taylor-Joy, who has been making waves as the lead in The Queen’s Gambit, is in the all-star cast alongside Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe. Pic shot in Ireland in the summer after a pandemic-enforced delay. Focus Features is releasing.
Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse’s ninth feature stars Leila Bekhti and Damien Bonnard in a drama exploring the impact of bipolar disorder. Luxbox is handling sales. Lafosse’s films have debuted at Cannes, Venice and Toronto in the past.
Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s latest movie is a Farsi-language drama featuring an Iranian cast including Ra’na Azadivar, Mohsen Tanabandeh and Amir Jadidi. Not a lot is known about the plot, but the project sees Farhadi collaborate again with regular partners Memento Films, which is producing, handling sales and will release in France.
French filmmaker Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s latest began filming in November and is likely to be ready for a festival debut in 2021. Her English-language debut stars Romola Garai, Alex Lawther and Paul Hilton in the story of a 50 year old tasked with looking after a 10-year-old girl. Jean des Forets produces for Petit Film with Andy Starke for Anti-Worlds. Wild Bunch is handling sales. Hadzihalilovic’s last movie, the Charlotte Gainsbourg-starring Lux Eterna, was in Cannes. Could the Croisette beckon again?
After having her plans to shoot The Stars at Noon disrupted by the pandemic, revered French auteur Claire Denis made the surprise announcement that she will first helm Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon in this story set in the world of French radio. The project is being produced by Denis’ regular collaborator Olivier Delbosc at Paris-based Curiosa Films.
Two-time Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad’s latest follows a woman whose visit to a hair salon turns into a nightmare when she is blackmailed by its owner. The film stars Manal Awad, Maisa Abd Elhadi and Ali Suliman and fought its way through two pandemic-related delays this year before wrapping in December. It is being tipped for a Cannes 2021 launch. Memento is handling sales.
Wong Kar Wai’s anticipated debut TV series, based on Jin Yucheng’s novel, was suspended by the pandemic not long after the filmmaker’s Amazon series Tong Wars was cancelled for similar reasons. But Blossoms is now in production, with Wong directing the pilot. The series is being billed as containing similar themes to In The Mood For Love, with it tracing Hong Kong’s influence on Shanghai during the 1990s. Tencent Penguin Pictures has acquired rights for China. Block 2 Distribution is handling international sales. Festivals will likely be falling over themselves to program it in their TV strands next year.
Decision To Leave
Cameras rolled in October on the next movie from brilliant South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. His latest is a mystery romance starring Tang Wei and Park Hye-il in the story of an honest police officer, looking into a suspicious death that occurs on a mountain, who begins to suspect the dead man’s wife. CJ Entertainment is handling sales. The director’s last movie, 2016’s The Handmaiden, was in Competition at Cannes.
This period drama from Zhang Yimou stars Zhang Yi, Zhang Hanyu, Qin Hailu and Zhu Yawen in the story of a group of spies investigating inhumane experiments in Japan. The director also has noir drama Under the Light, starring Dongyu Zhou, which has wrapped ahead of a potential debut in 2021, while his long-delayed historical drama One Second finally released in China on November 27.
Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa, whose 2009 film The Milk of Sorrow was Oscar-nominated, directs this story of the ties that bind a parent to their child. Gran Via Productions, Fabula and Wanda Films are behind the movie, which Netflix has the world on. Llosa has been a regular at the Berlinale.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s long-awaited film brings to life a collection of stories published in The French Dispatch, an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city. The all-star cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, Kate Winslet and Bill Murray. Fox Searchlight was forced to push the film multiple times in 2020 and it is currently undated.
Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, this semi-autobiographical film charts a boy’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital. Cast includes Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and newcomer Jude Hill. Focus recently picked up world rights.
Another film that was due for release in 2020. The expectation is that Cannes regular Nanni Moretti will be back on the Croisette in 2021 with his Italian-language story of three families living in three apartments in the same bourgeois condominium. Cast includes Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Margherita Buy and Moretti.
The Story Of My Wife
Following her Berlinale Golden Bear win in 2017 for On Body and Soul, Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi returns with this novel adaptation about a naval captain who met his wife after being dared by a friend to marry the next woman who walked into the cafe they were sitting in. Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel star.
Set in a near future, a family reckons with questions of love, connection and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down. This A24 charge from Kogonada stars Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H Min and Haley Lu Richardson.
Festivals will likely be falling over themselves for this Joaquin Phoenix drama about an artist who embarks on a cross-country road trip with his young nephew. Mike Mills directs for A24 and the producers of Booksmart and Eighth Grade.
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson
Film lovers rejoice, a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie is on its way. And Bradley Cooper is among the cast. Plot details are being kept under wraps but the film is said to revolve around a high school student – who is also a successful child actor – in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. Shoot was delayed due to Covid but we understand the MGM-backed movie is now in post-production.
Set post-World War II, Ben Foster plays Harry Haft, a boxer who fought fellow prisoners in the concentration camps to survive. Haunted by the memories and his guilt, he attempts to use high-profile fights against boxing legends like Rocky Marciano as a way to find his first love again. Barry Levinson directs the film, which wrapped shoot in spring 2019. Hans Zimmer scores, and supporting cast includes Peter Sarsgaard, Danny DeVito, John Leguizamo and Vicky Krieps.
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield star in the biopic of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who seek redemption after their religious empire and marriage crumbles. Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) directs the Fox Searchlight charge.
Spotlight director Tom McCarthy returns to similarly prestige-looking terrain with this Participant movie about a father who travels from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter who has been arrested for murder. Script comes from McCarthy and Jacques Audiard collaborators Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré. Matt Damon stars. Focus and UPI had originally planned to release the film last month.
Holy Motors director Leos Carax’s first English-language film is a musical set against the backdrop of Los Angeles. Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver play star-crossed lovers, and the project is inspired by U.S. rock band Sparks, who also provide music. The French production is backed by Amazon. Many expected a Cannes 2020 berth so the same seems highly likely in 2021 should the fest get a green light.
A look at the life and work of Charlie Chaplin in his own words featuring an in-depth interview he gave to Life magazine in 1966. The documentary comes from the team behind festival favorite Notes on Blindness and Oscar winner John Battsek (One Day In September).
Now dated for May 2021, Paul Verhoeven’s latest is finally expected at Cannes one year after it would have played the festival were it not for Covid. The drama is about a 17th century nun in Italy who suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair. Originally tipped for Cannes 2019, the release was first pushed back due to a reported health issue for the veteran director.
On A Half Clear Morning
Léa Seydoux stars in this French drama about a celebrity journalist who has her life overturned by a freak car accident. Director Bruno Dumont is a Cannes regular. Rachid Bouchareb is among the producers.
Post-production began in late 2018 on this drama from festival regular Mia Hansen-Love. Mia Wasikowska, Tim Roth, Vicky Krieps and Anders Danielsen Lie are among the cast in the story of a filmmaking couple who retreat to the titular island to write screenplays. It has been a long road to screen for this one.
It has been a decade since meticulous Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino’s observational drama Le Quattro Volte took the festival circuit by storm. His third feature, which began in fall 2019, charts the 1961 true story of a group of Italian speleologists who discovered the world’s second deepest cave.
Souvenir Part II
This is the second part of Joanna Hogg’s lauded Sundance and Berlin drama about a young film student (Honor Swinton Byrne in a breakout role) who becomes romantically involved with a complicated and untrustworthy man. A24 is back on board.
The Last Planet
Festival favorite Terrence Malick’s latest is a retelling of several episodes in the life of Christ. The under-wraps project features Son of Saul star Geza Rohrig as Jesus, Matthias Schoenaerts as Apostle Peter, Mark Rylance as Satan and Aidan Turner as Apostle Andrew.
Next Goal Wins
Taika Waititi’s adaptation of the 2014 British soccer documentary follows Dutch coach Thomas Rongen, who attempts the nearly impossible task of turning the American Samoa soccer team from perennial losers into winners. Fox Searchlight is behind the pic, whose cast includes Elisabeth Moss, Michael Fassbender and Kaimana. The Inbetweeners co-creator Iain Morris has co-scripted.
The Green Knight
David Lowery’s R-rated retelling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was initially scheduled for SXSW 2020. The anticipated A24 fantasy-horror pic stars Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton.
Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’Or in 2010 and was back on the Croisette in 2015 and 2018. A Riviera return was expected this year for Memoria, which stars Tilda Swinton as a Scottish woman visiting her ill sister in Bogota. Neon has North American rights.
Untitled Todd Haynes Documentary
Todd Haynes’ feature doc chronicles seminal rock group The Velvet Underground and its late frontman Lou Reed, charting the band’s rise in the 1960s. Christine Vachon at Killer Films is producing. Haynes has been a Croisette regular.
Algerian By Accident
Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz is a festival favorite, and his 2019 drama Invisible Life played at Cannes and was Brazil’s International Oscar entry. His latest project is a long-gestating documentary that explores the director’s Algerian roots and the legacy of the country’s battle for independence.
A Mouthful of Air
Amanda Seyfried, Finn Wittrock, Amy Irving, Jennifer Carpenter and Paul Giamatti star in this U.S. drama from writer-director Amy Koppelman (I Smile Back). Seyfried will star as Julie, a new mom and children’s book author, who escapes into the bright Crayola-colored world of her creation in order to leave behind the darkness caused by her post-partum depression.
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