Cannes Film Festival Adds Michel Hazanavicius, Mohammad Rasoulof Movies to Competition Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

After announcing a whopping number of English-language films in competition, Cannes Film Festival has added some international titles: Michel Hazanavicius’ animated feature “The Most Precious of Cargoes” and Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” Variety has learned.

An auteur-driven allegorical feature, “The Most Precious of Cargoes” (first-look still below) is adapted from Jean-Claude Grumberg’s bestselling novel of the same name, set during World War II against the backdrop of the Holocaust. It will be the first animated feature to compete in more than a decade, since Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir” in 2008.

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The film is co-produced and represented internationally by Studiocanal, which also has Gilles Lellouche’s “Beating Hearts” in competition. “The Most Precious of Cargoes” is a passion project for Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind “The Artist,” who has been developing the project for years. Hazanavicius penned the script with Grumberg and created the drawings, with Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat providing the score. The drama intertwines the fate of a Jewish family, including newborn twins, deported to Auschwitz, with that of a poor and childless woodcutter couple living deep in a Polish forest. On the train to the death camp, the young father wraps one of his twins in a shawl and throws her off the train into the snow. The lonely woodcutter woman, watching the trains go by in the hope that they’ll leave some resources behind, stumbles across the “cargo’ and discovers the little girl. She decides to take her home.

In a previous interview discussing the project with Variety, Hazanavicius said, “Grumberg’s tale succeeds in opposing the force of life to the industry of death, finding something beautiful to tell about [a period] that will forever remain a stain on the history of mankind.”

“The Most Precious of Cargoes” is produced by Patrick Sobelman and Robert Guédiguian at France’s Ex Nihilo, as well as Florence Gastaud and Hazanavicius at Les Compagnons de Cinéma. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are co-producing via their banner Les Films du Fleuve. Valérie Schermann’s animation company, The Animation Studio 3.0 (“The Red Turtle”), line-produced the film. Studiocanal will release it in France on Nov. 20. The voice cast is led by iconic French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, alongside Gregory Gadebois and Dominique Blanc.

Studiocanal CEO Anna Marsh described the film as a “beautiful and poignant story of love (…) accompanied by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Alexandre Desplat’s deeply moving narration and score.” “Films of this calibre are a cinematic gift,” she continued.

Hazanavicius is a Cannes regular, having world premiered “The Artist” and “Redoutable” in competition in 2011 and 2017, respectively, and “Coupez!” on opening night in 2022.

Cannes Film Festival has also added “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” the latest film from Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who has presented previous films “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” and “A Man of Integrity” at Un Certain Regard. His last film “There is No Evil” also won Berlin’s Golden Bear.

The plot of “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” is under wraps. Rasoulof has been attacked by the Islamic Republic government in Iran, which barred him from traveling to Cannes last year where he had been invited to serve on the jury of Un Certain Regard. He had his passport confiscated by Iranian authorities after presenting “A Man of Integrity” at Telluride and was sentenced to prison. He was recently released after months of detention due to his health condition. It was his third prison sentence in Iran.

Cannes has also added “Maria,” Jessica Palud’s film about the tragic life of Maria Schneider, who starred opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Tango in Paris.” Headlined by “Happening” star Anamaria Vartolomei and Matt Dillon (as Brando) as well as Alain Attal, the film will play at Cannes Premiere. It’s an adaptation of “Tu t’appelais Maria Schneider,” a book written by Vanessa Schneider, the actress’ cousin. “Maria” will be released in France by Haut et Court.

International films joining the special screenings lineup include Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye’s untitled documentary feature set against the backdrop of the pandemic; Arnaud Desplechin’s “Spectateurs,” a film starring Mathieu Amalric as the director’s alter ego which revolves around his youth; and Oliver Stone’s “Lula,” about Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte’s “The Count of Monte-Cristo” film, starring Pierre Niney, has been added to the out of competition roster.

Slotted for Un Certain Regard is Celine Salette’s directorial debut “Niki,” a biopic of French-American artist Niki de Saint-Phalle, who is played by Charlotte Le Bon. The film is produced by Les Compagnons du Cinema.

As unveiled on April 11, this year’s Cannes Film Festival will bring together several iconic filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola with “Megalopolis” starring Adam Driver, George Miller with “Furiosa” starring Anya Taylor-Joy, as well as George Lucas who will receive an honorary Palme d’Or. The 77th edition runs May 15-25.

See the full list of additions below.

Un Certain Regard

“When the Light Breaks,” Rúnar Rúnarsson

“Niki,” Céline Sallette

“Flow,” Gints Zilbalodis

Cannes Premiere

“Vivre, Mourir, Renaitre,” Gaël Morel

“Maria,” Jessica Palud

Special Screenings

“Spectateurs,” Arnaud Desplechin

“Nasty,” Tudor Giurgiu

“Lula,” Oliver Stone

“An Unfinished Film,” Lou Ye

Out of Competition

“Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte


“The Most Precious of Cargoes,” Michel Hazanavicius

“Trois kilomètres jusqu’à la fin du monde,” Emanuel Parvu

“The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” Mohammad Rasoulof

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