Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Wim Wenders: there's no shortage of veteran directors in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this year. But the industry is witnessing a generational overhaul, with new talent climbing quickly up the ranks in both France and abroad.
Young people are everywhere in Cannes - on the Croisette at the public screenings on the beach, gathering near the red carpet to get autographs from their idols and making the most of the "3 Days in Cannes" tickets for young movie fans.
But the Cannes Film Festival is above all a professional platform for rising stars, directors and producers to draw attention to their work, in front of or behind the camera, and glean advice from their elders.
To achieve this goal Unifrance, the agency in charge of promoting French talent internationally, has brought together a group of 10 actors and directors to be ambassadors for the new generation under the banner "10 to watch".
Among them is 39-year-old Franco-Cambodian director and producer Davy Chou.
He happens to be a jury member for Un Certain Regard this year, an invitation he says came as a surprise only one year after attending the festival to present his second feature "Return to Seoul" (Retour à Seoul) in the same category.
"I feel privileged. It's a weird position to judge people who have a similar experience or more than myself. I'm lucky to see all these films from different directors and it's very stimulating. I'm very happy," he told RFI.
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He admits that much of filmmaking is a process shrouded in doubt. Up until the last minute there's always the fear of how the audience will receive the film, he says.
For "Return to Seoul" he needed have worried. The vibrant, modern story of a young woman, adopted by a French family who makes the journey 'home' to South Korea to find her real parents found resonance with audiences both on the festival circuit and in theatres worldwide. It even was nominated to represent Cambodia at the Oscars.
Act of faith
"The act of directing, at least when you really put your guts into it, is an act of faith. You spend three, four, five years, sometimes more of your life, obsessed with one project," Chou says.
"Eventually you're going to find that thing you were looking for, even though you need to lose yourself along the way. That's the most rewarding thing for me, when suddenly it goes full loop. The journey has been different and more surprising compared to what you expected".
Chou says it's an exciting time for young people in cinema, and is enthusiastic to see so many African films in the selection this year, as well as input from Asian countries such as Malaysia.
"We've reached a moment when more than ever we're hearing voices that haven't been heard before, and there are people who want to hear those voices, especially young people," he says.
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Nadia Tereszkiewicz has many reasons to be happy. She celebrated her 27th birthday on the Croisette in Cannes on Wednesday while attending the '10 to Watch' rising talents events with Unifrance.
On top of that she's at the festival to promote the new French film "Rosalie" by Stephanie di Giusto screened in Un Certain Regard in which she plays a bearded lady in the 1870s.
Hailing from a Finnish-French family, Tereszkiewicz is well aware of how a double culture can be an asset to filmmaking. As an actor, the ability to speak three languages allows her to reach deeper into her characters and flesh out the emotions.
"Finnish is linked to my emotional language," she told RFI. "When I have to cry for example, or when I have to pray. It gives me another vision of the world," she says.
Women on screen
When it comes to opportunities for diversity, and more visibility for women, she is optimistic.
"I'm proud to be in a generation where things are changing. There are more producers, directors and writers who are women and who write for women".
There are also more films addressing the relationship between women and men - and the topic of violence, an issue she says was explored sensitively in "La Nuit du 12" (The night of the 12th), starring her fellow '10 to Watch' colleague Bastien Bouillon.
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Both Bouillon and Tereszkiewicz won awards for best male and femal rising talent at the Cesar awards earlier this year, the French equivalent of the Oscars.
Tereszkiewicz says the fact that "La Nuit du 12" was seen by so many young people is a testament to the power of cinema as a motor for social change.
"Cinema can change people's minds, they'll go away and think about it," Tereszkiewicz says. "That's why cinema is so important".
See more of RFI's Cannes Film Festival coverage here.
Originally published on RFI