THE WORLD'S HOTTEST NEW DIRECTORS: After viewing more than 1,000 entries, Saatchi & Saatchi has compiled its annual shortlist of new directing talent from around the globe. Lucy Aitken reviews the reels

Saatchi %26 Saatchi unveiled work from the world's best new directors at its 12th annual New Directors Showcase on Wednesday at Cannes. Trawling its network of 138 offices in 82 countries, the worldwide creative board viewed approximately 1,000 reels and more than 2,000 commercials. Whittling it down to a shortlist was "quite an undertaking", according to Bob Isherwood, the worldwide creative director of Saatchi %26 Saatchi.

The showcase initially launched in 1990 to challenge the perception that the best talent came from the US and Europe. It worked. As Isherwood says: "When we first took the showcase to Cannes 12 years ago, people were surprised that there was so much talent in other places in the world."

Previous lists have included the likes of Jonathan Glazer, Spike Jonze and Traktor, a testimony to the showcase's ability to spot the world's hottest directors on their way up.

Compared with last year's entries, which signalled a return to traditional crafts, this year's films spanned the range and occasionally touched upon a slightly surreal tone. This could encompass anything from geometrically inspired animation showing characters with their heads trapped in prisms, to a bon viveur crunching away on a PlayStation console served up as the plat du jour.

Isherwood said that, as there was less work around in general, it was more difficult for new directors to stand out. And fewer commercials were entered due to the global advertising recession.

"Work was tight. Established directors were scrambling for work too, and took things they wouldn't normally take. This meant there was less trickle-down, fewer commercials and fewer music videos as the music industry is still suffering. Music videos used to be a fantastic source for new directors, he added.

The preferred medium for this year's new directors was the short film.

As Isherwood surmises: "A lot of them opted for that outlet to replace what wasn't coming through in the commercial world."

SAM CADMAN

Ten days after his appointment to Rogue in 2000, Sam Cadman directed his first ad for Tango with HHCL & Partners. He then directed 12 spots for Nike on behalf of Wieden & Kennedy, with both ads winning awards at BTAA and Creative Circle in 2001. He then directed award-winning awards for Fox Sports (Saatchi & Saatchi), PlayStation (TBWA) and Lucozade Sport (Ogilvy). Isherwood admires his ability to deliver humour with aplomb: "There are so many attempts at comedy around and so few people can direct it well. Sam Cadman is one of the few. This skill is embodied in his partnership with Dom Joly - the two of them created Trigger Happy TV to huge acclaim.

ERIK VAN WYK

Formerly a creative at Hunt Lascaris TBWA in Johannesburg, Erik Van Wyk moved into directing in 1999 and shot a series of acclaimed commercials. His particular style of beautifully shot, observational comedy has triggered a great deal of popularity across the globe. Shooting for agencies in America, Sweden, the UK, Germany and South Africa, his special touch has been called "film with character".

DANIEL LEVI

Daniel Levi has found his natural habitat at Terraplane in South Africa. Terraplane takes the view that in the modern world, pre- and post-production are integrated into one seamless creative playground, from art direction through to casting, design, editing and composting. Levi's work integrates live action and post-production informed by a strong designer's aesthetic. Examples of his work, which include ads for Metro FM and Nike, are testament to this style.

FRANCOIS VOGEL

A passion for maths and direction don't always go together, but Francois Vogel is the exception to prove the rule. He started to study the application of mathematics and geometry to film-making more than ten years ago and manipulated existing computer programmes to create his own film language. His unique, surreal style has already won him several awards. Isherwood believes that: "His style is very 'out there'. Avant-garde techniques are his forte."

PANG HO-CHEUNG

Aged 19 when he began his career as a scriptwriter for Hong Kong's TV stations in the early 90s, Pang Ho-Cheung has come a long way in the past ten years. He has worked as a full-time writer, radio host, scriptwriter, director and creative director. He made his first short film Summer Exercise in 1999 and it won acclaim from festivals the world over. Today he both writes and directs short films, his preferred medium. Speaking on behalf of Saatchis' worldwide creative board, Isherwood says of I Shoot You Shoot: "This is a nice light piece of comedy from Asia and we thought it was great because it's all about new directors."

ALEXANDER HERZOG

The 34-year-old Alexander Herzog comes from Hanau and studied at the University of the Arts in Berlin for six years. During that time, he also studied at Saint Martin's School of Art in London as well as directing techno videos for Tresor Records, Eastwest Records and Arte. His credentials include working as a freelance Flame operator as well as a cameraman in addition to his directing experience for different production companies on music videos and commercials. Isherwood comments on his work for IC Berlin: "He has a good trick here and has made a unique piece of film."

JAY CHANDRASEKHAR

Super Troopers is Chandrasekhar's second feature film. Isherwood revealed that he and the rest of the Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide creative board, "all fell about laughing when we saw the film. It is very funny and no mean feat for a director to pull it out the bag with a weary audience. He was named a director to watch by Variety in 2001.

CHRISTIAN LOUBEK

Hailing from Seattle where he cut his teeth shooting independent films, Christian Loubek now lives in Brooklyn. His portfolio reads like a roll call of big blue-chip clients, including Volkswagen, Mastercard, Hewlett-Packard and Saturn. He has also shot and directed an interactive CD-Rom for the fashion advertiser Eddie Bauer, as well as the opening to the HBO series Six Feet Under. Isherwood is generous in his praise: "He demonstrates an outstanding performance, he has a strong sense of casting, and that little VW spot is really tight and beautifully made. I hope the people he did it for were thrilled as he really holds the audience."

PHILIP G ATWELL

A resident of Los Angeles, Philip G Atwell began directing music videos in the late 90s. Best known for his work with Eminem, his video for Stan scooped Video of the Year 2001 at the Source Music Awards and the Much Music Awards. Isherwood is impressed by the scale of the video: "I think that piece allowed him to present his talents and to show what he could do."

DIEGO KAPLAN

Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Kaplan studied cinematography at the National Institute of Cinematography before embarking on a career in TV. In May 2002, without any prior experience of working in advertising he formed the production company Wasabi Films to work with clients such as Telecom, Unilever, AOL, La Nacion Journal and Banco Frances among others. He works with ad agencies such as Agulla & Baccetti and Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi and has already become a much-requested name. Isherwood says: "The Argentinian economy might be under the hammer but there's some great work coming out despite the adversity, and this guy is proof of that."

NICOLAI FUGLSIG

Originally embarking on a hugely successful career as a war photographer for Danish newspapers has injected a shot of the more far-fetched and fantastical into Fuglsig's films. Having been awarded with the Kodak prize for "Best photographer under 30", Fuglsig is no stranger to praise. Isherwood is similarly impressed with his film for Levi's, "Voodoo": "This really is a brilliant piece of work. It's well shot, well-observed and it's got a unique feeling."

STEPHANE LEVALLOIS

Stephane Levallois has recently storyboarded the commercials of such prestigious directors as Bruno Aveillan, Eric Coignoux and Frederic Planchon. He has also been the production designer on several music videos and has designed a CD-Rom for Philippe Starck. Isherwood is hugely complimentary about his work. Describing his short film Cancan, which translates as "shackles", he says: "He has a strong visual direction for a powerful visual idea. He controls the mood and the surprise to make a tight piece for a deliberate pun. It's mind-bending."

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