Canadian helmer Kim Nguyen is making his first appearance in Directors’ Fortnight with what is also his first English-language film, Two Lovers And A Bear. The official screening is this evening. The War Witch director was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar in 2012 after scoring myriad prizes at home and abroad. That film was set in sub-Saharan Africa, so the follow-up marks a drastic change — it’s set in a small town near the North Pole. The first reviews out of the press screenings here have been largely positive. Nguyen talked to Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione ahead of the festival, before being reunited with Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany with Joe Utichi for our Cannes Studio.

aggie two lovers and a bearComparisons to The Revenant given the shooting temperatures and the involvement of a sizable ursine are welcome, says Nguyen, who nevertheless fought to use a live bear. “It’s such a soulful animal, so we were quite proud to have Aggie.” Aggie lives in Vancouver and traveled for two weeks in her trailer to get to set. Funny thing is, she was the one who was cold in the Nunavut region of Canada — she’s used to swimming in a warm pool every day.

As for the humans, Orphan Black’s Maslany stars with DeHaan as a couple striving to make it in a frozen town. Nguyen had approached the material before taking on War Witch but set it aside because “there was something about the story that wasn’t wild enough.” He returned to it with “a vibe that came to me that would infuse the story.”

Now repped by CAA, he was also fielding offers from Hollywood but decided to go with the story that “seemed the most unique. The Arctic now feels like a lunar base; like you’re on another planet being inhabited by humans that have to struggle every day to stay alive in minus-50 degrees. With the technology (available now) the contrast was very interesting.”

Nguyen is looking forward to being in Cannes “as a celebration of filmmaking.” But he’s also got “one or two projects to pitch to different investors.” He’s also hoping to “get drunk at least for one evening in a wrinkled tuxedo with a glass of champagne and watch the sunrise.” Next up is Eye on Juliet, a drama that stars Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole.