From left: Steve McQueen, Terence Davies, and Michael Winterbottom. All Brits, all directors.
When Cannes announced this year's lineup, there was a brief but vivid burst of outrage in the English press over the absence of British films.
The international incident was soon downgraded to a media kerfuffle when several British directors actually stepped forward to explain that their films weren't excluded, but simply hadn't been finished in time for Cannes. Fair enough. Controversy averted.
It turns out Cannes' loss is Toronto's gain. Not only will our festival be hosting the North American premieres of Hunger (which ended up winning the Camera d'Or award for best first feature) and Of Time And The City, but Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, as well. Earlier this week, it was announced that TIFF would present the world premieres of new films from Michael Winterbottom and Danny Boyle: Genova and Slumdog Millionaire. We're also getting Guy Ritchie's new film, Rock 'N Rolla.
British commercial cinema may be struggling now that the romcom and gangster genres are drying up - and now that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have been seduced by Hollywood - but these filmmakers have long since set themselves apart from the mainstream. (Yes, even Ritchie - unless you're willing to argue for either Swept Away or Revolver as conventional projects.)
Boyle's Sunshine and Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story are two of the most adventurous movies in recent years, and no one can touch Leigh for kitchen-sink intimacy. These are filmmakers who are constantly redefining the genres in which they choose to work.
At this point, mind you, I've only seen Hunger. (It's terrific.) But I'm looking eagerly forward to discovering the others along with everyone else.
Well, maybe not Rock 'N Rolla. After Revolver, I'm still not sure Ritchie deserves to be let back into the country.