The Cannes film festival opened on Tuesday and is already stirring up its usual heady mix of glamour, politics, and controversy, with an eccentric opening movie to boot. The world’s biggest film festival fell victim to the pandemic in 2020, and although stars are allowed to go maskless on the red carpet this year, a health pass is required to enter, with fewer glitzy parties.
The main jury is headed for the first time by a black person, US director Spike Lee, who quickly set a political tone.”This world is run by gangsters,” Lee said in response to an emotional appeal from a Georgian journalist who spoke about a recent crackdown on a Pride celebration in her country, which she blamed on Russian influence.
Lee also stuck the knife into Donald Trump, calling him “Agent Orange”, and sporting a cap reading “1619”, referring to the year in which the first slaves arrived in the Americas.
“Agent Orange, this guy in Brazil (President Jair Bolsonaro), and Putin are gangsters. They have no morals, no scruples. That’s the world we live in. We have to speak out against gangsters like that,” Lee said.
Lee’s jury this year has a female majority, including US star Maggie Gyllenhaal, Canadian-French singer Mylene Farmer and French-Senegalese director Mati Diop.
Five of the nine jury members are women (a majority for the fourth time in the festival’s history), and the issue of female representation was also raised at the press conference in Cannes.
“When women are listening to themselves and really expressing themselves, even inside of a very, very male culture, we make movies differently, we tell stories differently,” said actor Maggie Gyllenhaal.
She spoke about needing “an extra muscle” when she watched the male-dominated films of her youth — “to turn them into something that I could relate to,” and how deeply inspired she was when she saw Jane Campion’s “The Piano” in 1993 — still the only film by women to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
One controversy that jury member Tahar Rahim, star of Netflix hit “The Serpent”, did not seem keen to address was the fact that his wife Leila Bekhti was among those being judged, as she stars in competition entry “The Restless”.
She’s an actress like any other. I don’t see the problem. We’ve both played in films by Jacques Audiard,” he said, referring to the French director whose latest film “Olympiades” is also in the running for the top Palme d’Or prize.”It doesn’t change anything,” Rahim told the media.
Other jury members spoke of their feelings about attending Cannes after nearly 18 months of the pandemic, which cancelled the 2020 edition.
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