Known for its splashy show intros, Saatchi & Saatchi's New Directors Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Thursday opened on a curiously heady note. Famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins took the stage to give a lecture, of sorts, on the subject of memes, which he introduced in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene." He spoke on how the transmission of ideas and cultural norms evolve in a way similar to natural selection, and how memes as we know them today are creative, intentional mutations. Things then took a weirder turn when the stage backdrop became a crazy display of memified images, including that of Dawkins himself, accompanied by a song from musician Finn McNicholas and instrument designer Tim Exile. Mr. Dawkins then joined in on the fun and played a solo on an electronic wind instrument.
The opener introduced the show's theme of "Just for Hits," conceived by creative team Jonathan Santana and Xander Smith, the pair behind 2012's robotic "Meet Your Creator" opener and 2011's "Hello Future" intro starring electronic musician Jamie Liddell. Marshmallow Laser Feast, who also directed the previous two years' shows, created the dazzling visuals. The "Hits" theme attempts to illustrate Professor Dawkins' theory and also aptly encapsulates this year's 19 entries. They represented a wide range of genres and creative dispositions, all of which, by the Showcase standards, have risen to the of top of the "incubator of creativity."
Violence, of all types, was apparent in several of this year's entries, which included Ilya Naishuller's branded music video for Vodka brand Neft, featuring gangsters on a stylish killing rampage. Gevorg Karensky's live action take on "Grand Theft Auto" also made the cut, as did the creepy S&M stalkers in Justin Anderson's frightening, seductive film for Agent Provocateur. Ben Liam Jones directed a poignant tale of a son and his abusive father, for Child Line, while Casper Balslev contributed a Lynchian film about the weirdest house party ever, for Danish clothier Hans Kjobenhavn. Nabil's music video for Antony and the Johnsons' "Cut the World," about a secretary and her boss, played by Willem Defoe, delivered an unexpected gruesome moment in the quotidien office world.
On a more emotional note, Sonny London's Ryan Hope juxtaposed a woman's uneventful stroll through a warehouse with the angst of a soldier at war in Alpines' music video for "Lights," while Vellas interpreted the soul of a Leica camera through a moving black and white film. Humorous highlights came from Max Joseph, aka one half of MTV's Catfish duo, who got heavy audience applause for his comedic tale of first world guilt, "Follow the Frog" for Rainforest Alliance and from Peter Atencio, whose hilarious short film "Pulled Over" turned a minor traffic mishap into a platform for bodily functions, human excretions and even zombies. Joe Pease transformed skateboard moves into poetic shadow art in his short "Peter Brings the Shadow to Life," while Miles Jay brought apocalyptic grit to romance in his music video for White Doves "Young Empires.
The directors also showed off an array of refreshing multimedia techniques. Canadian director Ohji Inoue gave dimension to cheesy romance novel art in his music video for Keys and Krates' "Treat Me Right," while Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks, Japan combined projection mapping with dance in an ethereal clip for Nosaj Thing's "Eclipse/Blue." Ian Cheng brought trippy CG to Liars' "Brats" video while Jake Fried's used chalkboard-style art to illustrate information overload in the short "Raw Data." Perhaps weirdest of them all was Hong Kong director Wong Ping's animated short "No-one remains virgin," which used cute Hello Kitty-style animation to tell a bizarre story starring plump men with combovers and a strange ejaculating beast with a rocketship member that deflowers a giant demigoddess virgin.
To close the show, Damian Kulash, lead singer of Grammy award-winning band OK Go, known for its unconventional and innovative approach to marketing its music, took the stage to introduce the winner of this year's Music Video Challenge, in which directors around the world were invited to create a clip for the band's new track "I'm Not Through." The winning entry came from American director Nelson DeCastro, who delivered a fun, inventive take on green-screening effects.
See all the work on the New Directors Showcase Youtube Channel or in the links below.
Ben Liam Jones, Mustard
Child Line "It Follows Me Around"
Casper Balslev, RSA
Daito Manabe, Rhizomatiks, Co. Ltd
Nosaj Thing - 'Eclipse/Blue'
Gevorg Karensky, Outsider
Ian Cheng, IanCheng.com
Ilya Naishuller, Great Guns
Biting Elbows - 'Bad Motherfucker'
Jake Fried, Inkwood.net
Joe Pease, vimeo.com/m/joepease
'Peter Brings the Shadow to Life'
Justin Anderson, Epoch Films
Agent Provocateur 'Fleurs du Mal
Lucio Arese, lucioarese.net
Yu Miyashita - 'Mimic'
Max Joseph, Wander Films/Hungry Man/MaxJoseph.com
'Follow the Frog'
Miles Jay, MilesJay.ca
Nabil, Academy Films
Antony & the Johnsons - 'Cut the World'
Ohji Inoue, Ohji.ca
Keys N Krates - 'Treat Me Right'
One Pixel Wide, OnePixelWide.co.uk
Masters in France - 'Flexin''
Peter Atencio, Gifted Youth
Ryan Hope, Sonny London
Alpines - 'Lights'
Vellas, Sentimental Films
Wong Ping, nowhynowhy.com
No-One Remains Virgin'