Live from Cannes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 May, 2010, 12:00am

Basement desires: a journey into the dark underbelly of cinema

Most journalists entering the Palais des Festivals - the concrete edifice that serves as the home for the film festival - head for screenings in its cinemas or to interview potential award-winners in its function rooms. But underneath this cinephile universe lies a darker underbelly that gives birth to cinematic efforts such as Cheerleader Camp or Transmorphers.

Critics may rave about the latest offering from Abbas Kiarostami or Jean-Luc Godard, but the Marche du Film is where - to cite Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel - money never sleeps.

It seems appropriate that one has to descend into the Palais basement to access the stalls of the film market. While there are production companies and national film agencies trading in more serious fare, the Marche also displays all of humanity's base desires.

So it is with guilty pleasure that I venture into the Marche, and my appetite for silly fun is more than fulfilled. One of the first stalls I happen on hawks Midgets vs Mascots, a 'Borat-meets-Jackass shockumentary' where two teams battle for US$1 million through '30 ridiculous competitions, including how many insults it takes to get punched in a bar, who can drink a gallon of fluid the fastest and who can wrestle a live alligator'. Oh, it actually comes with some critical thumbs-up. describes the film as a 'hilarious, politically incorrect sleeper hit'.

Further on, another stall offers a film featuring a congressman-elect in a red Superman-style costume who promises to 'bust out the crab cakes for the ultimate mixed-match showdown'. It's a career move which Manny Pacquiao will probably regret now, as Wam Bam! Pac's the Man! With publicity material boasting awfully made-up paranormal villains and pouting, scantily-clad young women, this hardly gels with his plan to become a serious politician.

There are bizarre tag-lines galore. Apartment 103 says, 'Some rentals are too good to be true'. Will video stores would stock this one? Maybe.

Juan of the Dead promises 'great fun for all your beloved ones' with one of the most intriguing premises - an American plot to dethrone the present Cuban leadership. If exploding cigars or outright military invasion won't do, these filmmakers go for Washington flooding Havana with flesh-eating zombies. The titular hero discovers a way to kill the undead, and proceeds to make money by marketing his services. The film is yet to be made, but it's being produced by Spain's largest broadcaster in collaboration with the Andalucian regional government.

Which leads us back to Cheerleader Camp and Transmorphers. Both projects are handled by a company called The Asylum, whose hefty catalogue of titles also includes Mega Shark vs Giganotosaurus, Mega Piranha, Snakes on a Train and Sex Pot in 3-DDD. More sweaty-palm than Palme d'Or, but it's kind of chutzpah that makes the industry go round. In circles.