Gabrielė's Notebook

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    Filmmaker Gabrielė Urbonaitė posts about her work and fields of interest.
FEST Pitching Forum July 2nd, 2016

Last week, I got back from FEST Pitching Forum, a part of the FEST New Directors New Films Festival that took place from June 20-27th in Espinho, Portugal. At the Pitching Forum, I presented my new short film project Birthday that is based on real events and centers around an 18-year-old cigarette smuggler in Lithuania.

After 3 intense days of pitching training and the final 5 min long pitch for industry professionals, I learnt that I won one of the main prizes – the post-production award from Goldcrest, a post-production house based in London! Thank you to the jury, organizers, tutors and participants – your advice and support was invaluable! Full winners list here.

In addition to the Pitching Forum, I attended several masterclasses at Training Ground, including lectures by editor Joe Walker (ShameSicario) and legendary director Béla Tarr (SatantangoThe Turin Horse). Hope to return next year!

Bela Tarr's Masterclass

“Be yourself. Every compromise you make you will see on the screen for the rest of your life.” – Béla Tarr


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BACK / NAMO wins Special Mention at Vilnius IFF + Nominated for National Awards April 23rd, 2016

Happy to share that BACK (NAMO) was awarded Special Jury Mention for “its cinematic language, sense of city space and relevant topic” at the Student Competition of the 21st Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris”. It screened in both Student Competition and Short Competition among other shorts from Eastern and Central Europe. The lead actress Severija Bielskytė was nominated for Best Lithuanian Film Actress of the Year for her role of Ieva. Thanks to “Kino Pavasaris” for a wonderful time!

Some moments from the premiere:

BACK (NAMO) Premiere at Vilnius IFF980106_10153538553659849_6313968947745865739_o

Q&A after one of the screenings with actors Severija Bielskytė and Šarūnas Zenkevičius:

Q&A after a screening at Vilnius IFF

In addition to that, BACK was nominated for Best Student Film at National Lithuanian Film Awards “Silver Crane” (“Sidabrinė gervė”). The Award Ceremony will take place on May 27th in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Some press about the film below (in Lithuanian):

“Namo” recenzijos

Severijos interviu laidoje “Man 20-keli”

Severijos interviu apie filmą ir vaidybą

Mano interviu apie filmą laidoje “Ryto allegro”

Press release about the Lithuanian films awards ceremony at “Kino Pavasaris”

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BACK / NAMO at Vilnius International Film Festival February 18th, 2016

My latest short BACK (NAMO) will have its national premiere at the 21st Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris” where it will screen at the Short Competition among other excellent shorts from Eastern and Central Europe. The festival takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania from March 31st until April 14th.

BACK follows Ieva, 22, who comes back to her hometown Vilnius from Hollywood only to find out how much both the city and its people have changed.

Still from BACK

Severija Bielskytė as Ieva

Press release about the competition programmes

Pranešimas spaudai apie konkursines programas

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Princess Grace Awards October 3rd, 2015

This September I was awarded Princess Grace Film Undergraduate Scholarship, Charles Evans Film Award. I was among six film students from the U.S. selected by the Princess Grace Foundation-USA to receive the Award. The award will be used towards the post-production costs of my thesis project “Back“.

The Princess Grace Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded 33 years ago by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor the legacy of his wife, Princess Grace Kelly, by supporting emerging artists in theater, dance, and film.

Here are some photos from the Ceremony, attended by Prince Albert II of Monaco. Filmmaker David Riker, actress Nilaja Sun, and dancer and choreographer Robert Battle presented the winners. All photos by Jerry Lacay.

More info:


More photos:

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BACK / NAMO in post-production September 23rd, 2015

This summer, I shot my thesis film, BACK (NAMO) with a wonderful crew and cast in my native Vilnius, Lithuania.

BACK is a short narrative about Ieva, a 22-year-old actress who comes back to Vilnius from Hollywood, and during her first night at home realizes how much both the city and its people have changed.

Ieva is played by Severija Bielskytė, also starring Šarūnas Zenkevičius, Viola Klimčiauskaitė, Eglė Lekstutytė, Petras Kuneika, Dainius Jankauskas, Aistė Diržiūtė, and Vytautas Rašimas.

The production of BACK was supported by everyone who donated on our crowdfunding campaign, Marcia Robbins-Wilf Seed Grant, Baltic Film Services, ProRent, and Arclight. The post-production BACK is supported by the Princess Grace Film Award.

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos by the extremely talented photographer Justė Urbonavičiūtė / justesmwhr

And here’s the first still:

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BACK / NAMO on Indiegogo July 11th, 2015

A couple days ago I launched crowd funding campaign for my BFA film at Emerson College, “Back” (“Namo” in Lithuanian) that I developed at Berlinale Talents Short Film Station earlier this year. We will shoot “Back” this summer in Lithuania, and every dollar helps! It would be great if those who read this blog/website, could contribute! In exchange, you can get some great rewards, such as postcards, posters, canvas bags and invitations to the premiere of “Back”.

Like “Back” on Facebook and follow the news!

UPDATE: We reached our goal! Thanks to everyone who donated and showed their support!

Design by Rasa Matukaitytė

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Goodbye at Cannes Short Film Corner May 14th, 2015

My short “Goodbye” is at Short Film Corner of the Cannes International Film Festival this year.

If you’re not in Cannes, you can watch it here.

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Broken Soil March 7th, 2015

Last semester at Emerson College, I made a short documentary Broken Soil. I co-directed and co-produced this film with filmmaker Tommy Harkey. The film focuses on the Boston’s Ukrainian community and how it has been affected by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Three Ukrainians: priest Roman Tarnavsky, Crimea native Oleksiy Morozli, and student Daria Mozhejko, share what it means to be far away from home when their country is going through a major crisis. Broken Soil features music by composer Gioacchino Marincola.

Broken Soil was selected to Salem Film FestMass Reality Check student competition where it screened together with other captivating short docs! It also screened at the Emerson’s documentary festival It’s All True in Boston. It was nominated for Best Documentary at the 34th Evvy Awards, the largest student award show in the U.S.

After the Mass Reality Check screening and Q&A at Salem Film Festival © Mary Shea Photography

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Impressions from Berlinale Talents February 28th, 2015

This month, I spent a very busy and inspiring week at Berlinale Talents during the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. My project in-development BACK (“Namo“) was among 9 projects selected to develop at Short Film Station. I worked on my story in the group workshops and individual mentoring sessions with Veronika Grob, a funding advisor for Medienboard Berlin-Branderburg. Together with other participants, I had presentation training and pitched my project in front of a selected group of industry professionals.

© Chiara Ferrau, Berlinale 2015

© Bettina Ausserhofer, Berlinale 2015

© Peter Himsel, Berlinale 2015

In addition to the Short Film Station program, I attended masterclasses by Darren Aronofsky and Claudia Llosa, Wim Wenders, and Laura Poitras. Here are some of the highlights from my notebook:

“90% of filmmaking is persistence.” – Darren Aronofsky

“Satisfaction is not linked to success.” – Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders’ advice for young filmmakers: “Find your voice that stands out in terms of film grammar, and find the subject you have the strongest voice about.” And this: “Cinema has a fascinating power of documenting. Sometimes fiction captures places and preserves them better than documentaries.”

Because of the intense Talents program I had time to see only 5 features (of which my favorite was Laura Bispuri’s debut “Sworn Virgin” on a young woman rediscovering her sexuality), as well as a dozen of short films.

Here are some articles about my experience in Berlin and my upcoming short film BACK:

Interview for Film Festival Life

Emerson College Press Release

Straipsnis Lietuvių filmų centro puslapyje (in Lithuanian)

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BACK (a short film) January 17th, 2015

My newest project in-development, BACK, is selected to Berlinale Talents – Short Film Station, taking place on February 6-12th in Berlin, Germany.

BACK is a short drama about an aspiring actress Ieva who comes back to her hometown Vilnius from Hollywood and discovers that both the city and its people have changed. During her first twelve hours at home, Ieva sees her mom and friends who project their false expectations on her, picturing Ieva as a successful actress and America as the land of opportunity. Only to Tadas, her ex-boyfriend, Ieva reveals about her struggle in the U.S.

Confirmed production company – Apricot Films (producers Ieva Bužinskaitė and Jonas Špokas).

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Berlinale Talents Short Film Station January 17th, 2015

Very happy to be selected for Berlinale Talents – Short Film Station during the 65th Berlin International Film Festival! Berlinale Talents is the annual summit and networking platform for 300 emerging filmmakers from all over the world. I participated at Berlinale Talents in 2012 when I was only 18 and it was a life-changing experience. This time, I will attend the Short Film Station with my new short film project BACK. This year’s theme is “A Space Discovery”, which corresponds with my project, an exploration of what home is.

Here is my profile on the Berlinale Talents database.

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Goodbye at Student Filmmaker Awards Tournament December 26th, 2014

Goodbye (2014), a short film that I directed, was selected for Student Filmmaker Awards Audience Choice Tournament and made it to TOP 32. Thank you everyone who voted!

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The Swimmer: Screenings August 21st, 2014

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) is selected for SAGA Stockholm International Women Film Festival in Sweden. Screening on August 30th.

Also screening in Amsterdam, Netherlands on August 24th, 7pm at The Bookstore Foundation together with other Lithuanian shorts. More info here.

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The Swimmer on Eurochannel August 1st, 2014

Eurochannel selected my short film The Swimmer (Plaukikė) for their annual Short Film Tour.  The tour invites viewers and filmmakers on a stirring tour of Europe through short films. The sixth edition of the tour is dedicated to the European youth. The chosen films, made by or about young Europeans, will be broadcasted on pay cable, pay satellite, and pay mobile television. The Swimmer is going to be screened in the program “The Younger Generation“. Airing times are August 30 & 31, 2014 with more dates coming soon. See the director’s profile here.

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Goodbye: A Short Film May 5th, 2014

“Goodbye” is the last short (7 min) narrative film that I directed. Made at Emerson College, it tells a story of two people their last morning together.

Watch Goodbye here

“Goodbye” screened at Emerson Film Festival on March 22, 2015 and was selected to Short Film Corner at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival.


JD Achille & Matt Fagerberg


Producer / Assistant Director – Ted Keffer
Director – Gabriele Urbonaite
Director of Photography – Louis Weissman
Editor / Sound Designer – Shannon Swartz
Production Designer – Anna Kuo
Writer – Alexandra Dews
Gaffer – Mark Woit
Key Grip – Jabari Canada
Associate Producer – Emily Barger
Assistant Camera – Matt Shanafelt
Grip / Electric – Joey McManus & Taylor Kissin
Boom Operator / Assistant Sound Editor – Ben Coflan
Color Correction – David Franzo

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“People” Experimental Documentary December 16th, 2013

I decided to share my final assignment for Film I class at Emerson College. Here it is.

It is an experimental documentary based on the poem by Anton Kharitonov (originally in Russian, interpretations made in translation). My goal was to capture diversity in real life situations and interpret the poem visually by creating associations rather than illustrating.

Shot and edited by: Gabrielė Urbonaitė
Instructor: Kathy Rugh
Narrator: Juliet Lamond
Thanks to: Daniel Dluhy, Eglė Petraitytė, Nomeda Urbonienė
Shot on Bolex 16 mm B&W Tri-X Reversal Film on locations of Boston, MA and New York City
Edited on Steenbeck

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Special Jury Mention at Brest for The Swimmer December 1st, 2013

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) was awarded Special Jury Mention (Mention spéciale du jury) in the 28th Brest European Short Film Festival, which took place in France, November 12-17, 2013.

The Swimmer was the only film from Lithuania screened in the European Competition. A non-competition section of the festival, L’Europe en court, was dedicated to the best short films from Vilnius Film Shorts.

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Get Down Music Video November 20th, 2013

A music video that I shot last year was screened in the 2nd Annual Silversonic Music Video Showcase in the Bright Lights Screening Room, Emerson College, Boston, MA.

Watch Get Down on Vimeo.

Band: China Fox
Produced by: Women In Motion (Emerson College)
Producers: Christina Tontisakis, Natasha Don
Director: Gabrielė Urbonaitė
Cinematographer: Matthew Tompkins
Production Designer: Meghan Kaltenbach
Editor and colorist: Steven San Miguel
Choreographs: Tamara Omazic, Alaina Belanger
Cast: Tamara Omazic, Francisco Pena, Kiera Johnson, Jamie Ahlborn, Maria Kaestner, China Fox

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The Swimmer at Brest European Short Film Festival October 8th, 2013

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) was selected to the European Competition of 28th Brest European Short Film Festival, taking place in France, November 12-17, 2013.

It’s the second most important short film festival in France, winning recognition for the viewpoint of young European filmmakers over the present-day.

Here is the film’s description in the festival’s database.

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Talent Camp Odense September 3rd, 2013

Last week, August 25-31, I participated in Talent Camp Odense, an international intensive film camp during Odense International Film Festival.

The week was full of screenings and masterclasses, given by film professionals: documentary filmmaker Sami Saif (“Family“), producer Sisse Graum Jørgensen (“The Hunt“, “A Royal Affair“), director Martin Strange-Hansen (“This Charming Man“), cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro (“Reconstruction“, “Melancholia“), and director Martin de Thurah (music videos for James Blake, Feist, and David Byrne).

We also had a 24-hour challenge when 30 participants were divided into groups of 6 and had to make a short film during one day. Overall, it was great to meet new people, share ideas, and be inspired.

“In order for something to look good, you need something to look bad” – Manuel Alberto Claro, cinematographer.

“Find out where your story will end. Then you will have millions of ways to get there” – Martin Strange-Hansen, director.

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Kino Euphoria Midnight Sun June 17th, 2013

From June 3-16, 2013 I participated in Kino Euphoria Midnight Sun workshop that took place in Lapland, Finland, where sun never goes down at this time of the year. It was organized by Euphoria Borealis in co-operation with Nisi Masa – European Network of Young Cinema and Midnight Sun Film Festival.

This Kino Kabaret focused on sound and music in film. 52 participants from all over Europe were helped by 2 tutors – composer Titas Petrikis from Lithuania and sound designer Miki Brunou from Finland. We had 3 sessions of 3-4 days, and during each session we divided into groups and had to make a short film around 5 min long.

I directed one short called “I Want To Be An Elf” that follows a journey of a young man who comes to Santa Park in Lapland because he wants to become an elf. However, the Park is closed… I also edited 4 other films during this intense agenda.

Our films were screened in Midnight Sun Film Festival, founded by Finnish directors Aki Kaurismäki, Mika Kaurismäki and Peter von Bagh. This year, the festival’s guests included Philip Kaufman, Claire Denis, and Cristian Mungiu, one of my favorite directors.

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The Swimmer at Silver Crane Awards May 13th, 2013

Silver Crane National Lithuanian Film Awards (Sidabrinė Gervė) took place May 11, 2013. The Swimmer (Plaukikė) that I wrote and directed won the Best Short Fiction Film award! I attended the ceremony together with producer Justinas Piliponis, director of photography Saulius Lukoševičius, and main actress Eglė Valadkevičiūtė. Lina Kačiušytė, Lithuanian Olympic swimming champion, announced that we won and handed in the award. winners list about the awards + photos about the awards + photos



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The Swimmer International Premiere (U.S.) May 13th, 2013

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) was selected to the Women’s Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, and screened on May 10, 2013 at the Actor’s Company Theater in West Hollywood.

We also won the Award of Merit in Short Film Category!


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The Swimmer Nominated for National Awards April 23rd, 2013

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) is nominated for the National Lithuanian Film Awards “Silver Crane” as Best Short Film. The ceremony for the 6th annual “Silver Crane” awards will take place on May 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Article in English with a full list of nominees

Official Page of Lithuanian Film Academy (LiKA)

Article in Lithuanian (Lietuvos Rytas)

Article in Lithuanian (Delfi)

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The Swimmer at Vilnius International Film Festival March 27th, 2013

The Swimmer (Plaukikė) premiered at the Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris” on March 17, 2013. It was screened as a part of Short Competition and Lithuanian Premieres programmes. The Swimmer was very well accepted by the audience and even won the Audience Award for Best Lithuanian Film!

Here are some articles in Lithuanian press about The Swimmer and the Audience Award:

The Article about the Audience Award and the Best Student Film in the Festival’s Page

The Article about the Audience Award and the Best Student Film in KINFO

The Article about the Audience Award and the Best Student Film in DELFI

Video featuring Justinas Piliponis, the producer of The Swimmer, accepting the Award

First review of 4 Lithuanian premieres, including The Swimmer

My interview about The Swimmer, filmmaking, cities and inspirations entitled “One must always stay creative”

Lithuanian TV broadcast features my interview about The Swimmer

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The Swimmer Premiere February 13th, 2013

My short film “The Swimmer” (“Plaukikė”) is now announced to premiere at “Kino Pavasaris” Vilnius International Film Festival in Short Competition programme. The festival takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania, from March 14 to 28, 2013.

First screening in Short Competition programme: March 17th 14:00 at “Forum Cinemas Vingis”, Vilnius.

Official Premiere: March 17th 18:00 as part of “Lithuanian Premieres” at “Forum Cinemas Vingis”, Vilnius.

Other screenings: March 24th 17:45 at “Skalvija” Cinema, March 25h, 16:30 and March 27, 12:00 at “Forum Cinemas Vingis”.

“The Swimmer” on the festival’s website.

Also in the Short Competition programme: “The Whistle” (“Gwizdek”) by Grzegorz Zariczny, awarded Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year; “Superman, Spiderman or Batman” by Tudor Giurgiu, awarded Best Short Film Award at European Film Awards, and others.

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Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? February 13th, 2013

Yesterday, February 12th 2013, I went to the advance screening of “Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky“, made by the amazing Michel Gondry.

Three years ago, I was a production assistant on one of the Gondry’s interviews with Prof. Chomsky and I was really happy to finally see the visually enchanting result, allowing us to experience beautiful minds of these men.

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The Swimmer June 17th, 2012

The Swimmer is my newest project (currently in post-production).

It is a story about small and big fears, friendship, and passion for swimming, stronger than anything.

It is a short fiction about a 10 years old Grete, a cheerful and imaginative girl, who starts swimming lessons. In the swimming pool, she meets a Ariel (19), a professional swimmer, who was brought to the pool by her father, swimming coach, at the age of 4. Despite the age difference, two become friends, as Ariel helps Grete to overcome her fear of jumping into the water. However, Ariel has a leg ache that is getting more and more painful…

The Swimmer on Facebook

Watch our trailer

IMDb Page


Written and Directed by Gabrielė Urbonaitė
Produced by Justinas Piliponis / Pilou Films
Director of Photography Saulius Lukoševičius
Editing by Nicolas Houver
Music by Pablo Pico
Sound Design by Joseph Fiorillo
Sound Recording by Jonas Jocys
Production Design by Aistė Jakimavičiūtė
Art by Lina Galeckaitė
Color Correction by Andrėj Poležajev


Eglė Valadkevičiūtė as Ariel
Ugnė Beleckaitė as Grete
Petras Kuneika as Jonas
Dainius Gavenonis as Antanas
Viktorija Kuodytė as Jonas and Grete’s Mother
Sonata Visockaitė as Coach

We also shot a promo clip to fundraise our movie. Even though we didn’t reach our goal on Indiegogo, you can watch the clip and get the sense of The Swimmer‘s  aesthetics.

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Eyal Sivan’s Montage Interdit June 5th, 2012

From January 2012, I had been working as an assistant editor on the newest Eyal Sivan‘s documentary project Montage Interdit, which focuses on the Jewish/Palestinian question in Jean-Luc Godard’s films. The project was presented at the Berlin Documentary Forum on June 3rd, 2012. Eyal Sivan commented Montage Interdit with film scholar Robert Stam and theoretician Ella Shohat.


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Impressions from Cannes 2012 May 25th, 2012

5 days, 12 films. Queues, parties and last day of pouring rain… Emerson College, where I will be studying from September, featured my profile in its blog as one of the Emersonians in Cannes. And here’s my short review of the most distinct films :

Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson (in Competition): cinematic, stylish and entertaining film, which ironically criticizes American society and portrays a world of children-scouts. However, in the end it needs a more solid story or something that would allow spectators to identify with the characters. A perfect opening film.

De Rouille et d’Os (Rust and Bone) by Jacques Audiard (in Competition): beautifully filmed, poetical, great characters (a whale trainer Stéphanie who loses both legs after an accident and a boxer Ali who takes care of his 5 years old son – two unforgettable performances by Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts). Everything was so correct in this film, maybe even too correct?

Baad el Mawkeaa (After the Battle) by Yousry Nasrallah (in Competition): a very interesting, though long and sometimes weak at performance, mix between documentary and fiction, set in Egypt during the revolution against Mubarak’s regime.

Jagten (The Hunt) by Thomas Vinterberg (in Competition): the best film from what I saw in Cannes this year, in which a random lie spreads quickly around a small Danish village and causes Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) to be ostracized by the community, hunted as deer that he used to hunt with his peers, and forced to fight for justice alone. Actual as well as universal, great acting (Award for Best Actor for Mikkelsen), moving and poetical story. Perfect. Or maybe just a film of my taste.

The Sapphires by Wayne Blair (Off Competition): a light and funny comedy about a band of 4 Australian Aborigenal girls touring in Vietnam during the war. Just a nice film for Saturday night.

Mystery by Ye Lou (Un Certain Regard): a film by prominent Chinese director Lou Ye (Une jeune chinoise) had interesting moments but generally failed in a too explicitly told over melodramatic story.

Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan (Un Certain Regard): although I wasn’t a big fan of Dolan’s Les amours Imaginaires, I must admit that this young filmmaker has his own style that is very clear. Furthermore, I was fully immersed into the film, following the story of a transsexual Laurence and his female soulmate Frédérique for more than 2 hours without any concern of time.

Broken by Rufus Norris (Semaine de la Critique): one of my favorite films in Cannes, portraying a 11 years old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) who has A type diabetis and who observes the life of neighbors around her. Emotionally engaging, sincere and socially realistic debut film by British stage director Rufus Norris, or maybe just a type of films I like.

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