Matt Williams: pointers to the future from Saatchi’s venerable New Directors Showcase

It’s no secret that each year we see agencies at Cannes try to outdo each other by bringing in bigger and better celebrities to speak at their panel sessions and mingle at their parties. Kim Kardashian, Pharrell Williams,…we’ve had it all this time round.

And because of this, it’s also no secret that a lot of people become disillusioned by pandering talks that fail to get into the key industry issues.

With it being the 25th anniversary of the Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors’ Showcase, I’m sure there was huge temptation by the organisers to bring in someone – or something – big. Indeed, in previous years the screening has kicked off with drones, wearable tech and even a hologram to wow audiences. So how could they go one better to befit such an occasion? Barack Obama introducing it? David Beckham personally showing people to their seats?

In fact, what they did was a hell of a lot better. A hell of a lot more refreshing. Particularly for those cynical farts like me who does moan about the pomposity and obsession with one-upmanship that this festival brings.

They focused on the work. Can you believe that? A session at an advertising festival where the actual creative product was given centre stage.

Of course there was a nice and iconic twist. The work brought together 25 filmmakers who have been part of the Showcase over the years, including the likes of Jonathan Glazer, Traktor, Daniel Kleinman and Ringan Ledwidge, with each person directing a portion.

The result was a diverse, powerful, not entirely cohesive but incredibly enjoyable, 25 minute film. There were some genuinely funny moments (a comic fight outside a British pub won the crowd over), there were some startling moments (A head. A vice. A drill. Ouch), and there were some awe-inspiring moments (a delightful modern-day twist on Fantasia).

I can’t find it online yet – hopefully Saatchi will release it soon – but it was an experiment that paid off, and put craft and creativity back at its rightful place front and centre of Cannes.

Whilst that opening film hasn’t been seen beyond the Palais, the films of this year’s Showcase Directors have been released. And these are no less enjoyable. If you have a spare 45 minutes, then watch them all here. If you don’t have a spare 45 minutes, then scrap all your other plans, and make time.

And if you really just want to get a flavour, here are my favourites.

Guilt Trip – a story of growing up, friendship, and anarchy. A film full of attitude, power and an awesome soundtrack.

JohnnyExpress – a bonkers, but very charming, film about an aloof delivery guy who inadvertently destroys another planet. Think Despicable Me on acid.

Hotel 22 – a story of how a night bus in Silicon Valley provides shelter for the homeless. It’s a delicate story told very well.

And finally perhaps the best of all. The Gunfighter. A laugh-out-loud Western comedy where an unseen narrator reveals the deepest, darkest secrets of a local community. It’s a remarkable script and executed brilliantly.

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