45th Deauville American Film Festival with a female-focused programme, the usual parade of Hollywood glitter

AFP | Catherine Deneuve (centre) presides over the Deauville jury this year, with Kristen Stewart (left) and Geena Davis among the guests of honour.

France’s annual celebration of American cinema kicks off on Friday with a female-focused programme, the usual parade of Hollywood glitter and a special treat for fans of “Game of Thrones”.

First came the tapestry, then the series itself. Two weeks after a 90-metre long “Game of Thrones” tapestry was shipped to the French town of Bayeux, to be exhibited alongside the famous embroidery charting the Norman conquest of Britain, the 73 episodes of the HBO series will be landing further up the Normandy coast on Friday, for the start of the 45th American Film Festival in Deauville, which runs through September 15.

Fans eager for a “GoT” binge-fest will be treated to some 70 hours of the fantasy show on the big screen, packed into just eight days. They may even catch a glimpse of actress Sophie Turner – of Sansa Stark fame – one of several female guest stars due in Deauville this year. Also starring in revenge thriller “Heavy”, the British actress will receive Deauville’s Hollywood Rising Star award, whose past recipients include Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain and Elle Fanning.

Another darling of the French crowds, Kristen Stewart is also due in the luxurious resort town for the screening of “Seberg”, the Jean Seberg biopic in which she plays the lead role, and of “JT Leroy”, based on the true story of an invented persona that fooled the literary world. Stewart will be feted with the Deauville Talent Award, along with film stars Sienna Miller and Geena Davis. Miller will present “American Woman”, about a Pennsylvania mother coping with personal tragedy, while Davis will showcase the Hollywood gender inequality documentary “This Changes Everything”, in which the likes of Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman and Sharon Stone have their say on the dearth of women holding positions of influence in the industry.

Female directors account for just under half of the 14 films in competition – and many of the most eagerly awaited entries. They include Danielle Lessovitz’s transgender drama “Port Authority”, which won plaudits at the Cannes Film Festival this year, Annie Silverstein’s Texas-set “Bull”, about a troubled teenager’s passion for rodeo, and Jennifer Reeder’s thriller “Knives And Skin”, centred on a young girl’s disappearance in the rural Midwest. Should one of them win, it would be the sixth time a woman picks up Deauville’s Grand Prix since its creation in 1995 – whereas only one female director has ever one Cannes’ Palme d’Or.

Women will head the juries as well, with French film icon Catherine Deneuve presiding over the main competition and Anna Mouglalis heading the emerging talents jury. Ahead of the festival, Deneuve defended its decision to programme Woody Allen’s new romantic comedy “A Rainy Day in New York”, which provides the curtain-raiser on Friday. Amazon, which had agreed to distribute the film in the United States, dropped it over allegations that the Oscar-winning director abused his daughter Dylan Farrow. US feminist groups have reacted indignantly to the film’s inclusion in the Deauville line-up, where it is screening out of competition. But in an interview with AFP late last month, Deneuve accused feminists of being “blinkered”, arguing: “You have to differentiate the film-maker from the person.”

Also screening out of competition are Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life”, Ciro Guerra’s “Waiting for the Barbarians”, starring Johnny Depp as a sinister colonial oppressor, and Olivier Assayas’s “The Wasp Network”, which closes the 45th edition. The festival’s traditional non-US slot – selected by a panel of English-speaking film critics – this year goes to French director Ladj Ly’s Cannes hit “Les Misérables”, a shocking foray into police violence in the suburbs of Paris. Another Cannes revelation, Paul Haggis and Dan Kraus’s “5B”, about the first US hospital ward to specialise in the treatment of Aids in the 1980s, will headline the documentary segment, alongside Todd Douglas Miller’s “Apollo 11”, marking 50 years since the first moon landing.

This article has been adapted from the French original.

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