Cannes 2024: Anora, Limonov, Ernest Cole: Lost and Found, Lula | Festivals & Awards

Considerably more straightforward, and much better, is Raoul Peck’s documentary “Ernest Cole: Lost and Found,” showing in the festival’s Special Screenings sectionA South African photographer, Cole (1940-90) captured images of life under apartheid that were compiled in an influential book, “House of Bondage” (1967)LaKeith Stanfield reads the film’s semi-fictionalized voice-over, which is in the first person—ostensibly from Cole’s perspective—but is based on information from his friends, family, and associates. The searing photographs, which showcase the injustices, the casual cruelty, and sometimes the absurdities of segregation in South Africa, are largely Cole’s own. According to the movie, 60,000 of Cole’s negatives were rediscovered in a bank vault in Sweden in 2017.

In the voiceover, the film’s version of Cole reflects on the strategies he had to use (such as learning to shoot at eye level), the things he saw in South Africa (he recalls a banishment camp near the Botswana border whose residents were so isolated that they had lost track of the day of the week), and how apartheid related to Jim Crow, which he photographed when he went into exile in the United States. (When he lived in New York, the voice-over notes, his background tended to get him assignments that involved showcasing poverty and desperation.) There are times when “Ernest Cole: Lost and Found” could be clearer about which words come from Cole directly and which are adapted from others. But mostly, it allows Cole’s photographs to speak for themselves.

Also in special screenings, Oliver Stone and Rob Wilson’s “Lula” is, by Stone’s standards, a mostly straightforward account of the career and worldview of the current Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a hero of the left who in the 2022 election cycle defeated Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in a spectacular comeback. (He had spent more than a year and a half in prison on convictions that were eventually annulled.) 

In a sit-down interview, Lula and Stone touch on a number of interesting topics, such as where Lula’s politics fit on the political spectrum (Stone remarks that aspects of his background might have made him prone to either communism or conservatism) and his relationships with recent American presidents. But the movie is also largely old news—the interview itself took place 10 months before the election—and Stone is so prone to casually entertaining conspiratorial interpretations of events that it’s difficult to trust him as a guide.