Andrew Dominik and John Hillcoat, two directors who proved to the filmmaking world what they could do with outstanding Australian films, have had their latest work selected in competition in the 65th Cannes Film Festival.
No Australian features have so far been included in official selection – although Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week selections aren't being announced until early next week, and a couple more films are expected to be included in the Un Certain Regard sidebar – but Yardbird, a 13-minute Australian film from Sydney-based director Michael Spiccia, is included in the shorts competition.
The crime thriller Killing Them Softly was filmed in New Orleans and stars Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins. Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn is also amongst the cast. Pitt plays Jackie Coogan, who is investigating foul play that occurs during a high-stakes poker game. The New Zealand born Dominik made The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford between Chopper and Killing Them Softly.
Like Killing Them Softly (pictured), Hillcoat's film Lawless also has criminal activity at its heart and is set in the US. Guy Pearce plays a special agent investigating bootleggers during the Depression and stars in the drama alongside Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeoug. Queensland-born Hillcoat made The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and based on Cormac McCarthy's book, between The Proposition and this new film.
Early in their careers, both Dominik and Hillcoat honed their filmmaking skills on television commercials and this is the work that Spiccia has been best known for – until now. Yardbird is his debut drama and is one of 10 films chosen from more than 4,500. It is about a young girl who lives in a remote car-wrecking yard and takes on the local bullies that torment her father. It was filmed on location over six days at Talbot and Clunes in regional Victoria in January 2011. Post-production took place in Sydney. It is also the first film for producer Jessica Mitchell but not for writer and executive producer Julius Avery: he's an old hand at the shorts competition given that Jerrycan, which he wrote and directed, won the Cannes Jury Prize for best short film in 2008.
There is also a New Zealand short in competition: Zia Mandviwalla's Night Shift, about an airport cleaner who survives on what people leave behind. This is the fourth short film made by the writer/director, who was born in India but moved to New Zealand in 1996.
Cannes runs until May 16-27. See the competition line-up here.