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Reel politik in Cannes

india Updated: May 20, 2010 12:50 IST
Xan Brooks

This year’s festival has been low on Hollywood stars, and the market feels flat. The weather is chill and the lineup spotty, and yet none of this matters - because God is coming to town. Jean-Luc Godard!

God of film
Inside the Palais, the delegates recite his name like an incantation. Who cares if he’s old and frail (79 last birthday)? So what if he says his latest work - Film Socialism - will be his last? If anyone is guaranteed to raise Cannes to the rafters, it is the revolutionary firebrand behind Breathless, Weekend and Contempt.

There are still some who can recall May 1968, when Cannes was galvanised by the uprisings in Paris. They tell you how Godard was among a gang of nine filmmakers who stormed the festival hall and brought the event to a halt in support for the strikers and the students. The audience thought they had come to burn the cinema down and proceeded to break for the exit. Cannes 68 was officially cancelled the following morning.

Cannes 2010 is just a few days old, but the spirit of 1968 is alive and well. The lineup includes pointed political films from France, Italy, Africa and China, amid the usual crop of Hollywood blockbusters. It is a Cannes tradition to offset the celebrity glitz with films that clamour for action.

Point in case, a film by Italian director and comedian Sabina Guzzanti. Draquila: Italy Trembles is shot in the style of Michael Moore, who won the Palme d’Or here in 2004 for Fahrenheit 9/11. Where Moore tackled Bush, Guzzanti targets Silvio Berlusconi, and his handling of the 2009 Aquila earthquake.

She suggests he used the resulting crisis to crack down on civil liberties, forcing survivors into militarised tent cities while he started a lucrative development project. Her film outraged the Italian government, and culture minister Sandro Bondi boycotted Cannes. Draquila, he claims, is “propaganda that offends the truth of the Italian population”.

Guzzanti has been sued in the past: a case brought by Mara Carfagna, the former topless model and Berlusconi’s minister for equal opportunity is ongoing (Carfagna objected to Guzzanti’s suggestion that her job was a reward for sexual favours). “Previously I’ve always been found innocent. But you can always find a judge who is corrupt, particularly now Berlusconi has rewritten the entire constitution. The justice system is one of his tools.”