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Cannes 2023: Take a look at the controversies that stirred up the film festival

May 27, 2023 12:50 PM IST

Not just glitz and glamour, these storms of controversies also kept the French Riviera buzzing this year.

Away from all the glitz and glamour at the red carpet, the Cannes Film Festival, this year, faced a storm of controversies for various reasons. We take a look at some of the major stirs that created ripples at the fest this year.

A protester, wearing a dress in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, was detained by security after she covered herself in fake blood on the stairs on the Festival Palace ahead of the screening of the film Acide during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (AFP)

Depp-Heard saga continues

The festival courted controversy when it rolled out its red carpet for Johnny Depp. His period drama Jeanne du Barry was selected as the opening film, and marked his return after his tumultuous legal battles. The festival’s chief Thierry Fremaux also defended the decision, saying, “I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the U.S. To tell you the truth, in my life, I only have one rule: it’s the freedom of thinking, and the freedom of speech and to act within a legal framework”. Meanwhile, actor Amber Heard supporters slammed the festival claiming that they are celebrating abusers.

Writers strike makes a big noise

Hollywood’s screenwriters’ strike became a major talking point all around the world, and Cannes was no different. On the first day of the festival, the jury spoke in support of the writers. Ruben Ostlund, head of this year’s Cannes festival jury, said he supports the screenwriters’ strike, adding, “I think it’s great that people have a strong collegial feeling so you can go out and have a strike”. US actor and director Paul Dano, one of the eight members on Ostlund’s jury and married to actor and screenwriter Zoe Kazan, also voiced his support.

Ukraine unrest reaches Cannes

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis’s shadow also cast a shadow over the Cannes festival. At the festival’s opening ceremony, legendary French actor Catherine Deneuve paid tribute to the war’s victims by reciting a poem from Ukrainian poet Lessia Oukraïnka, declaring: “I no longer have either happiness or freedom, only one hope remains to me: to return one day to my beautiful Ukraine”. On the business side, official Russian delegations and companies with ties to the government are again banned from participating in the Cannes Marché du Film.

Anti-Surrogacy group show defiance

The Cannes Film Festival red carpet is usually accustomed to protests and this time, defiance by an anti-surrogacy group was also noticed. An activist burst onto the red carpet, posting an openly anti-GPAclosely linked, according to her, to the film industry. The activist, from the group SCUMs, entered the red carpet of the festival to display her round belly and the message “surrogate mother”, in English, overcoming a barcode.

Echoes of Iranian uprising heard at Cannes

The noise of the uprising in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini reverberated profoundly at Cannes. This time, Iran’s Farabi Film Foundation, a national film entity, which has been attending the market for years, was not allowed to book a stand, a festival spokesperson confirmed. Dubai-based producer of director Mohammad Rasoulof, who was recently released from Tehran’s Evin prison, was also not allowed to leave Iran to serve on Cannes’ main jury.

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