Controversies in Cannes at the 71st Film Festival
A competition with few big names but lots of politically explosive material. An argument with Netflix. German cinema's disappointing presence. An overview of the issues facing Cannes as the film festival opens.
An Iranian opener
Persian director Asghar Farhadi has been given the honor of opening the festival this year. The two-time Oscar winner has two big stars in his Spanish-Italian-French co-production "Everybody Knows." Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem play the lead roles in the thriller, which is up for the Golden Palm along with 20 other nominees.
US director Spike Lee and his latest movie "BlacKkKlansman" is a contender for the Golden Palm. Lee, who has often dealt with the subject of racism in his previous work, looks at the case of a police officer who smuggled himself into the Ku Klux Klan in this movie. Spike Lee is one of just two US directors (the other is David Robert Mitchell) in contention this year.
A strong showing from France
French cinema naturally sees the Cannes Film Festival as a game on home turf. A total of five French films are competing this year: from the arthouse film "The Image Book" by 87-year-old master Jean-Luc Godard to the love story "Sorry Angel" (above) by director Christophe Honoré, the cinematic motherland presents itself more strongly than any other nation in the competition.
There's often something new afoot in Cannes but this year the novelty is political: two films in the competition are by directors who are under house arrest in their homeland. Iranian Jafer Panahi sent his film "Three Faces," while the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov forwarded his latest contribution, "Leto" (above). It's unlikely the directors can present their work in Cannes personally.
Artsy films from the world over
Arthouse films by big name directors: these have been of particular interest in Cannes over the past few years. They've taken a back seat this year as the world awaits new works by famous directors. Pictured here: Turkish star director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "The Wild Pear Tree" traces the fate of a young writer who returns to their rural home.
A woman for (jury) president
The film which will take home the Palme d'Or on May 19 is decided by, among others, Australian actress Cate Blanchett, who is the 2018 president of the jury. She sits on the jury along with several other women, including actresses Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart (from France and the US respectively) along with directors Andrey Petrovich Zvyagintsev (Russia) and Denis Villeneuve (Canada).
Lars von Trier's return
It was a bit unexpected that the Danish director Lars von Trier would appear again at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2011, he caused a scandal after he had allegedly expressed sympathy for Adolf Hitler at a press conference. The festival then excluded him. But this year Trier can show his new movie, "The House That Jack Built," albeit outside the competition.
The German and the Pope
Once again, we are looking for German directors at the competition in Cannes in vain. There are a few films being shown on the side and "out of competition," including Wim Wenders' new documentary "Pope Francis – a man of his word" who is presenting his film at the Croisette. The film was created in close collaboration with the head of the Catholic Church.
Ulrich Köhler makes it to the "Un certain regard" series
Yet German director Ulrich Köhler was able to make the leap into the renowned side events, "Un Certain Regard" with his film, "In My Room." In the film, Köhler, who is the life partner of the award-winning director Maren Ade, looks at the midlife crisis of a man who wakes up one morning only to realize that all of humanity has disappeared.
Von Trotta's personal look at Ingmar Bergman
A third German is represented in Cannes: Margarethe von Trotta is showing her documentary "Ingmar Bergman," which she staged together with Felix Möller. Von Trotta had a personal relationship with Bergman. The festival honored the Swede, who was born 100 years ago, in 1997 with the "Palm of the Palm," a special prize for the "best director of all time."
Han Solo's world premiere
As American films are not well represented at the festival this year, fewer Hollywood stars are expected. But fans of blockbuster cinema will still go home happy. The latest Star Wars opus "A Star Wars Story" premieres in Cannes. The film shares the experiences of Han Solo in a plot-heavy flick located in the Star Wars chronology spectrum as being before the very first movie from 1977.
The question of Netflix
One of the controversies to hit the Cannes film festival ahead of its opening was an argument with streaming platform Netflix. Questions about their presence at the festival and what they can show arose as Cannes requires a theatrical release for the works while Netflix premieres their own works online, for subscribers. The argument could not be resolved and Netflix films won't be screened.