Cannes 2013

Cannes 2013: Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins Opens Saatchi's Annual New Directors Showcase

Memes Are the Theme

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Richard Dawkins, meme.
Richard Dawkins, meme.

Saatchi & Saatchi's New Directors Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is known for its splashy intros, but opened this year's installment on Thursday with 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 took a weirder turn when the stage backdrop became a crazy display of meme-ified images, including that of Mr. 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.

That was all setup for this year's theme, "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. Marshmallow Laser Feast, the creative studio that also directed the previous two years' shows, created the dazzling visuals.

The "Hits" theme attempted to both illustrate Professor Dawkins' theory and encapsulate this year's 19 entries. They represented a wide range of genres and creative dispositions, all of which, by the standards of the Showcase, have risen to the of top of the "incubator of creativity."

Violence, of all types, was apparent in several of this year's entries, including Ilya Naishuller's music video for Vodka brand Neft, which featured 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 the ChildLine counseling service while Casper Balslev contributed a Lynchian film for Danish clothier Hans Kjobenhavn about the weirdest house party ever. Nabil's music video for Antony and the Johnsons' "Cut the World," about a secretary and her boss (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 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 Japan's Rhizomatiks 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, however, 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.

OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash closed by introducing 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-screen 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
'Han Kjobenhavn'

Daito Manabe, Rhizomatiks, Co. Ltd
Nosaj Thing - 'Eclipse/Blue'

Gevorg Karensky, Outsider
'GTA Rise'

Ian Cheng,
Liars --'Brats'

Ilya Naishuller, Great Guns
Biting Elbows - 'Bad Motherfucker'

Jake Fried,
'Raw Data'

Joe Pease,
'Peter Brings the Shadow to Life'

Justin Anderson, Epoch Films
Agent Provocateur 'Fleurs du Mal

Lucio Arese,
Yu Miyashita - 'Mimic'

Max Joseph, Wander Films/Hungry Man
'Follow the Frog'

Miles Jay,
'White Doves'

Nabil, Academy Films
Antony & the Johnsons - 'Cut the World'

Ohji Inoue,
Keys N Krates - 'Treat Me Right'

One Pixel Wide,
Masters in France - 'Flexin''

Peter Atencio, Gifted Youth
'Pulled Over'

Ryan Hope, Sonny London
Alpines - 'Lights'

Vellas, Sentimental Films
Leica 'Soul'

Wong Ping,
No-One Remains Virgin'

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