Cannes Lions

Saatchi's New Directors Showcase Features an AI-Created Film

Debut Coincides With Birthday of Alan Turing

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This year during its 26th annual 2016 New Director's Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Saatchi & Saatchi injected a suprising entry into its lineup: an AI-created film.

The agency challenged viewers by asking, "Can a film made by machines move you?" Along with the Saatchi's L.A.-based shop Team One and Zoic Labs, it put together a different kind of "film crew" comprising AI programs including IBM's Watson, Microsoft's Ms_Rinna, Affectiva facial recognition software, custom neural art technology and EEG data. Together, under the pseudonym of "Anni Mathison," they produced the film "Eclipse" (above), a striking, ethereal music video that looked like a combination of special effects, photography and live-action. But Saatchi didn't reveal this as the "artificially intelligent" entry until the very end. The AI director's surname is actually the middle name of Alan Turing, the scientist widely credited as the "father" of artificial intelligence and whose his birthday coincided with the day of this year's event.

Outside of that, the 2016 collection consisted largely of short films and music videos, with just two spots in the mix. One of the ads was the poignant work above for Coordown out of Saatchi & Saatchi New York and directed by Reed Morano of Pulse Films. The film is narrated by a real 19-year-old girl, played by Olivia Wilde, who talks about how she sees herself and the world. Not until the end do we find out that the narrator has Down Syndrome.

The second ad in the showcase was Harvey Nichols' "Shoplifters" film, directed by the Layzell Bros and created out of Adam & Eve/DDB. The film used real-life CCTV footage of thieves stealing from the retailer, overlaid with quirky animations so as to disguise their identities.

On the live action front, Caroline Bartleet helmed the suspenseful short film "Operator," seen below. The BAFTA-awarded short is set in the headquarters of ER responders and homes in on one operator who takes a call from a woman whose house is on fire, with her son trapped on the second floor.

Dan DiFelice was behind "Carved in Mayhem," a poetic, photographic tale about a man's unique journey from despair to redemption, while spoken word artist Hollie McNish makes a case for public breastfeeding in "Embarrassed," an eye-opening short directed by Jake Dypka.

James Burns' documentary, "We Live This," gave viewers a deeper, more dimensional look into the lives of a group of kids who dance in New York subway cars, long a popular fixture in the city but whose stories passengers likely never get to know.

In music videos, Connor Hurley captured a poignant, unusual love story in his clip about a young Amish man who sets out to sow his oats in the big city, in a music video for El Perro Del Mar's "In the Woods." The showcase also highlighted Matt Lambert's new take on the "Romeo and Juliet" story for Mykki Blanco's "High School Never Ends." Iconcoclast's Nicolas Davenel delivered a gripping tale for KCPK's "Who Wants It?" which depicted the cyclical nature of crime, moving from street kids to the upper ranks of a Russian mob, while Grant Singer was behind the camera for the fantastical-meets-dance music video for Skrillex's "Red Lips" below.

VFX and animated films made up a large portion of this year's entries. They included "Undercurrents," in which director Albert Omoss depicted a sensual, sculptural CGI love entanglement, and De Staat's "Witch Doctor" music video below from Studio Smack, about a nattily dressed dude who controls an army of bare-chested brawnies in a synchronized group dance.

Meanwhile, Nicos Livesey went psychedelic with the claymation in the music video for Radkey's "Glore," a twisted trip through pop culture memory lane, with cameos from Beavis & Butthead, Bart Simpson, The Legend of Zelda and more.

The animation took a more charming turn in Uri Lotan and Yoav Shtibelman's music video for Jane Bordeaux's "Ma'agalim," about a wooden doll stuck in the forgotten world of a penny arcade. Rupert Burton delivered a dazzling dance-meets-special effects extravaganza that turned out to be a sponsor reel like you've never seen before, for the AICP's 2016 show.

At the darker end of the spectrum, Tomas Vergara's short film "Isolated" (below) was a horrific, hyper-real tale about a man who wakes up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

A pair of comedic entries took horror and gore to a different place. Bennett Silverman delivered a crude take on the teen horror romp in the ridiculously-premised "Handjob Cabin" (below), about a frightening ghost who has a thing for violently jerking off visitors to its house in the woods, while Jason Kupfer's "Invaders" told the story of how an evil-doing pair's invasion of a quaint family home goes grotesquely awry.

The showcase also featured the trailer for Dorota Kobiela's upcoming feature film, "Loving Vincent," what's being billed as the "first fully painted" animated feature film. Athough just a tease of what's to come, so far it appears to be a moving version of Van Gogh's painting.

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