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Chaos and controversy mark Cannes

Cannes and controversy have been together for a long time, but this time the Festival may well be politically charged. The French Government is peeved over the fact that...

india Updated: May 15, 2010 19:43 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

gautaman

Gautaman Bhaskaran

Chaos and controversy has marked this year’s Cannes Film Festival. This morning, an American journalist, who did not wish to be named, was hit by a security guard as he was trying to enter the Grand Theatre Lumiere for the screening of Woody Allen’s latest work, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. In recent years, the crowds at the Festival have swelled beyond anybody’s imagination, and the guards have been finding it quite a task to manage them. One often sees them lose their cool. But then they have always been overtly rigid, not trying to understand that people have had queued for a long time to see their favourite movies, stars and directors.

Apart from chaos, the Festival has had its share of controversy. Cannes and controversy have been together for a long time, but this time the Festival may well be politically charged. The French Government is peeved over the fact that a supposedly inaccurate version of history has found its way into Rachid Bouchareb’s Competition entry, Outside the Law.

The film focuses on the 1945 Algerian revolt against occupying French soldiers a day after World War II ended. The French Government’s handling of the uprising led to the massacre of thousands of people. Incidentally, the movie has been marked as an Algerian entry, not French. A Government official, Lionnel Luca, said that Bouchareb had the right to say what he wanted to, but his truth is not France’s.

That may be so, but Bouchareb’s last film, Days of Glory, about North African soldiers fighting on the side of France during World War II, did get French politicians thinking, and evoke a public debate. French President Jacques Chirac watched Days of Glory and passed a law granting recognition and fair payments for the war veterans.

This time, however, things could take an ugly turn with an extreme Rightwing website condemning the Festival of irresponsibility. It wanted truth and justice, and has threatened to protest when Outside the Law is screened on May 21, the fag end of the 12-day event on the Riviera.

Xavier Beauvois Competition entry, Of Gods and Men may also lead to unpleasantness. The movie elaborates on the 1996 massacre of French monks in Algeria. Franco-Algerian ties have always been touchy, and cinema has merely increased the friction.

Meanwhile, the India Pavillion has been creating its own controversies. It still sports irrelevant posters. The Udaan poster is still not up. Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut feature screens in A Certain Regard, the first film from India in seven years in the Festival’s official sections.

One is also told that the posters of the Mumbai Film Festival and Krishnaswamy’s documentary, A Different Pilgrimage, have also not been displayed. Krishnaswamy said he was promised that his posters would be on. A Different Pilgrimage, tracing India’s awesome cultural and religious contribution to South-east Asia, will screen in the Cannes Market.

Yesterday, the India Pavillion had programmed a talk by S. Krishnaswamy and others on Mrinal Sen’s enormous contribution to meaningful Indian cinema. It was cancelled at the last minute without not even a by-your-leave. Krishnaswamy said that the organisers had not even informed him about this change in plan.

Sen is in Cannes, and his 1984 Khandar will be screened tonight as part of Cannes Classics. The movie has been digitally remastered by Reliance Dreamworks. It screened at Cannes’ A Certain Regard 26 years ago in 1984, two years after the auteur-director had served on the Cannes jury.

Ritwick Ghatak’s Titash Ek Nadir Naam will also be shown as part of Cannes Classics in the next few days.