It's been a big day in Cannes for Jimmy P., one of the most anticipated entries in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and that also goes for Native actresses Michelle Thrush and Misty Upham. Both are in town with the film's star, Benicio del Toro, the director Arnaud Desplechin, and other cast members for press conferences, hobnobbing, and of course the red carpet premiere.
At a press conference prior to the Saturday screening, Upham, Blackfeet, remarked on the irony that her ticket to Cannes was a film made on her home rez. "I had no dreams and no way to make a dream. I had to leave the reservation," she said. "So 18 years later … (I am) coming a full circle to the reservation I left to fulfil my dream."
It's an interesting choice of words given that Jimmy P. centers on a World War II veteran (played by Del Toro) who is haunted by his dreams in a way western psychoanalysis cannot understand. "We believe in spirits. We believe in ghosts. We believe in shape shifting. We believe in medicine and curses. We are very spiritual people," Upham told the press. "What somebody else would call delusional, to us it is normal. That is why they had to create a new way to see what is going on in our minds without confusing the spirituality."
Upham's star has been on the rise since at least 2008, when she appeared in the acclaimed Frozen River; she's also in the star-studded film version of August: Osage County, which will hit theaters later this year. Thrush, Cree, has herself been steadily gaining notice, particularly for her work in the rez drama Blackstone — in 2011, her work on the show earned a Gemini Award (the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy) for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role.
Thrush is at Cannes with her own story of dreams coming true."I was interviewed the previous year on Entertainment Tonight and asked ‘Out of every actor in the world who would I want to work with? Who would be my dream to work with?'" she told the Calgary Herald. “I said Benicio Del Toro. So it was quite interesting that it happened.” Thrush admitted that her admiration for her co-star was initially an impediment. "I couldn’t seem to get my lines right,” she said. “I just couldn’t get over the fact that I’m sitting beside this person who I have such a huge amount of respect for." Eventually, Del Toro pulled her aside for a conversation that put her at ease.
This isn't Thrush's first time in a Cannes contender — she played Nobody's Girlfriend (opposite Gary Farmer, who is also in Jimmy P.) in the 1995 Palme D'Or nominee Dead Man. But Thrush didn't attend that year's festival. This time around, she's not permitting herself to miss out — she is, to put it plainly, ready to party. “People keep telling me to try and get into the yacht parties and boat parties,” she told the Calgary Herald. “I’m going to do it. I will live every single moment. I probably will not sleep for seven days straight.”