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Child actors take the Cannes Film Festival by storm

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/25/2017 By JAKE COYLE, AP Film Writer
This image released by Clandestine Films and Soda Pictures Productions shows Maggie Mulubwa as Shula, in a scene from "I Am Not a Witch," a film that was presented at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, May 24. ( Clandestine Films and Soda Pictures Productions via AP) © The Associated Press This image released by Clandestine Films and Soda Pictures Productions shows Maggie Mulubwa as Shula, in a scene from "I Am Not a Witch," a film that was presented at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, May 24. ( Clandestine Films and Soda Pictures Productions via AP)

CANNES, France (AP) — The Cannes Film Festival, with its late-night soirees and throngs of paparazzi, isn't an ideal place for children. Few of its movies are PG-rated, nor is much of the nightlife.

FILE - In this May 18, 2017 file photo, actress Millicent Simmonds poses for photographers during the photo call for the film "Wonderstruck" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Simmonds plays the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in 1927 New York. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 18, 2017 file photo, actress Millicent Simmonds poses for photographers during the photo call for the film "Wonderstruck" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Simmonds plays the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in 1927 New York. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

Yet at this year's Cannes, kid actors have delivered many of the festival's most memorable performances, often by not just equaling their better-known and taller co-stars, but by towering above them. It's the year of les enfants.

This image released by Amazon Studios shows Millicent Simmons in a scene from "WonderStruck," which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival. (Mary Cybulski/Amazon Studios via AP) © The Associated Press This image released by Amazon Studios shows Millicent Simmons in a scene from "WonderStruck," which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival. (Mary Cybulski/Amazon Studios via AP)

That's perhaps been especially welcome during a festival where innocence has been hard to come by, and not just on the screen. Monday's bombing in Manchester, England, which took the lives of many young concertgoers there to see one of their favorite pop stars perform, was acutely felt in Cannes. Already pervasive security measures were ramped up even more after the explosion — measures that had themselves been inflated following last year's deadly rampage in nearby Nice.

FILE - In this May 18, 2017 file photo, actor Michelle Williams, from left, director Todd Haynes, and actors Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael and Millicent Simmonds pose for photographers during the photo call for the film "Wonderstruck" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Simmonds plays the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in 1927 New York. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 18, 2017 file photo, actor Michelle Williams, from left, director Todd Haynes, and actors Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael and Millicent Simmonds pose for photographers during the photo call for the film "Wonderstruck" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Simmonds plays the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in 1927 New York. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

That made the smiling young faces of Cannes' kids shine all the brighter. Most of them, plucked from obscurity and dropped into the middle of Cannes' cacophony, were agog at the spectacle they found themselves in — but none looked out of place.

This image released by Netflix shows Seo-Hyun Ahn in a scene from "Okja," a film that was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. (Jae Hyuk Lee/Netflix via AP) © The Associated Press This image released by Netflix shows Seo-Hyun Ahn in a scene from "Okja," a film that was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. (Jae Hyuk Lee/Netflix via AP)

Meet the Cannes class of '17:

FILE - In this May 19, 2017 file photo, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, from left, Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton and director Bong Joon-Ho pose for photographers during the photo call for the film "Okja" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 19, 2017 file photo, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, from left, Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton and director Bong Joon-Ho pose for photographers during the photo call for the film "Okja" at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

MAGGIE MULUBWA — Rungano Nyoni's "I Am Not a Witch" was one of the standouts of the festival, a film playing in the Directors' Fortnight section that announced the Welsh, Zambia-born Nyoni as a major new talent. But it wouldn't have worked without Mulubwa's remarkable lead performance in the surreal, comic, tragic tale of a young African girl who is declared a witch by her village and exiled. While researching in Zambia, location scout Tobias Tembo and location manager Gabriel Gauchet happened to take pictures of Mulubwa playing on the beach. The filmmakers auditioned hundreds of girls before deciding, however they could, to track down the arresting girl in their photos. With the help of a local chief and the messaging service Whatsapp, they did. Now Mulubwa is frolicking along the French Riviera.

MILLICENT SIMMONDS — For the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in 1927 New York, Todd Haynes went searching for a nonprofessional deaf girl who could help carry his period fable "Wonderstruck." When he saw Simmonds' audition tape, he said he "shivered." Her performance was one of the most acclaimed at the festival. She and her young co-star Jaden Michael made for perhaps the cutest pair in Cannes. Their dancing at the film's post-premiere party, Haynes said, was "outrageous and adorable." Said Simmonds, a Utah native: "I never dreamt my life would come here, to this."

AHN SEO-HYUN — Bong Joon-ho's fantastical "Okja" contains some eye-catching characters — Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, a digitally created giant pig. But the 13-year-old South Korean actress Ahn Seo-Hyn, who stars as Mija, may best them all. In a wild romp of a movie, she's the film's quiet, melancholic core.

BROOKLYNN KIMBERLY PRINCE and VALERIA COTTO

In Sean Baker's "The Florida Project," a Directors' Fortnight entry, Prince and Cotto play 6-year-olds living in an Orlando, Fla., motel. Their world, poor and gritty, is far cry from the nearby Walt Disney World, but no less magical.

FANTINE HARDUIN

You can count on Michael Haneke to supply a less rosy-eyed view of youth. In "Happy End," Harduin plays Jean Louis Trintignant's 13-year-old granddaughter in a film full of disconnected characters in anguish and apathy. Harduin's young girl is no different, and just as callous, if not more so, than the cruel family members that surround her. The film's beginning and ending, is seen, disturbingly, through her camera phone.

MATVEY NOVIKOV

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's "Loveless" his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated "Leviathan," is also no picnic. It's about a bitterly divorcing couple and their missing 12-year-old son, played by Novikov. The scene that precedes the boy's flight, in which he overhears his parents trying to pawn him off on the other, provided one of the most haunting, heartbreaking images of the festival. Life was tough for a lot of the kids in Cannes, on screen, at least.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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