From the Vault: The Xavier Dolan Complex

The Festival de Cannes is a dream festival for filmmakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian filmmaker, Xavier Dolan, is back at the festival for his third time in a row. The prodigious filmmaker first made his appearance at the French Rivera at the age of 20 with his directorial debut, I Killed My Mother, and was back again in 2010 with his second film, Heartbeats. It’s now 2012, and he is back once again with his latest film, Laurence Anyways, which means he has had the honor of having every single film of his open in Cannes. There would be a lot of filmmakers who would be pleased with themselves after achieving such a feat, but he is not one of those filmmakers.

The reason Xavier Dolan is a little bummed is because his film was selected for the Un Certain Regard section rather than the In Competition selection. This means his film will not be eligible for the big prize, the Palme d’Or. That’s a big deal for him, considering it’s been his dream to walk away with the prize.

That’s how important Cannes is for some filmmakers. In his case, it’s so important that getting in isn’t enough. It’s the competition for the coveted Palme d’Or that matters. It’s a little snobbish, sure, but it’s also ambitious.

The festival is now in full swing, with screenings of hundreds of films from all around the world. In the past several decades, a number of Armenian filmmakers have made appearances at the festival and made a name for themselves. In 2010, we dominated the Cinéfondation and Short Film sections, as Vatche Boulghourjian won the third prize for his short film, The Fifth Column, and Serge Avedikian’s short animated film, Chienne d’histoire, won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film. In fact, Atom Egoyan was the President of the Cinéfondation and Short Film Jury that year, when two fellow Armenian filmmakers were screening their films.

In his own career, Atom Egoyan has established himself as a favorite of the festival. The Canadian filmmaker has a total of five prizes from the Festival de Cannes, including five nominations for the Palme d’Or. In 1997, The Sweet Hereafter walked out of the French Rivera with a total of three awards, which included the Grand Prize of the Jury.

In this year’s competition, Cannes welcomes not just an Armenian filmmaker, but a female. Nora Armani, who screened Haïfa, a film she produced, at the Un Certain Regard section in 1996, is back with a short film of her own, Moving Stories. The film will screen in the Short Film Corner. The female filmmaker also stars in another film, Was My Whole Life Wrong, which will screen in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. That’s quite an appearance to make at the Festival de Cannes.

There have been a number of others who have made appearances at the festival and there will, of course, be more in the future. If there’s anything to be learned from Xavier Dolan, however, is that we can all be a little ambitious. It’s a little selfish of him that he isn’t satisfied with the fact that every film he has directed has been selected for Cannes, but that’s also what’s so great about him; the fact that he isn’t satisfied.

The sooner we become content and familiar as artists, the sooner we start losing our flavor. The Un Certain Regard section, that section that Xavier Dolan is always subjagated to, exists to recognize young talent and encourage innovative and daring works. It’s no wonder then that his films are being selected for this specific section. It’s our responsibility, however, as artists and filmmakers to constantly push ourselves. It’s not enough that we are starting to make some great films and gain some exposure; we should never be satisfied. The new generation of Armenian filmmakers, many of whom are still in school, being introduced to the world of cinema, should be bold and creative, daring and inventive with their films. The Festival de Cannes is a dream festival, sure, but let’s shoot for more; let’s impress ourselves and become content only with our own selves.

The revolution of Armenian filmmakers is happening now. It’s now that we have so many talented filmmakers slowly emerging. There has never been a time for Armenian filmmakers to rise among the crowds and make a name for themselves as there is now.

In Xavier Dolan’s trailer for his new film, the main protagonist decides he wants to start living as a woman rather than a man. The man is questioned by a colleague who asks if his behavior is a revolt against society, to which the main protagonist replies, “No, sir, it’s a revolution.”

That’s what we need to be.