Race for gold reaches climax at politically charged Cannes

A jury led by Cate Blanchett will crown the winner of the coveted Palme d'Or for best film at Cannes Saturday, after a politically charged festival rocked by controversy and the #MeToo movement.

Race for gold reaches climax at politically charged Cannes
An anti-Trump tirade from Spike Lee was just one of the political moments at this year's Cannes. Photo: Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP
Movies by Spike Lee, South Korea's Lee Chang-dong, Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Nadine Labaki of Lebanon  – one of three female directors among the 21 in contention — drew critical acclaim ahead of the famously unpredictable awards night.
But beyond the prize winners, the 71st Cannes festival may linger for its off-screen moments in the first edition since the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal broke.
Hollywood stars including Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Helen Mirren and Salma Hayek and directors Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins joined a red-carpet protest to demand equal opportunity and a “safe workplace”.
Two days later, the festival organisers signed a pledge to encourage more diversity in its selection by 2020, saying they hoped it would set an industry standard. 
Despite being one of the most sought-after tickets, the premiere of Danish bad boy Lars von Trier's slasher flick “The House That Jack Built” saw audience members walk out in droves, as reviewers slammed what they called a misogynistic orgy of violence. Both its female stars, Uma Thurman and Riley Keough, were conspicuously absent from the red carpet, where Stewart on another night staged a kind of protest of her own by slipping off her high heels and climbing the vaunted Cannes stairs barefoot. 
 Anti-Trump tirade
The glamour-drenched festival spotlighted dissident directors, including Jafar Panahi of Iran and Russia's Kirill Serebrennikov, who were barred by their governments from attending. Their films drew lengthy standing ovations, while a single seat marked with their names remained empty.
Polish Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski, who won the foreign-language movie Oscar for “Ida” in 2015, caused a scandal at home when he told AFP at the festival that the film had been “blacklisted” by the nationalist government. Warsaw denied the claim.
Critics swooned over Pawlikowski's latest, the slow-burn period love story “Cold War” set against the backdrop of the Iron Curtain.
Political realities dominated the Cannes race contenders. Lebaki won hearts with “Capernaum” set among the poorest of the poor in Beirut and featuring a devastating performance by a 13-year-old Syrian refugee boy.
“While this is unquestionably an issue film, it tackles its subject with intelligence and heart,” industry bible Variety said.
Spike Lee scored a hit with “BlacKkKlansman”, the stranger-than-fiction story of an African-American police officer who manages to infiltrate the highest levels of the Ku Klux Klan. The film, which several critics called a return to form for the “Do the Right Thing” director, explicitly links the tale set in the 1970s with white nationalism in the Trump era. Lee attacked the US president with an expletive-filled tirade at his press conference that quickly went viral on social media.
Reviewers fawned over Asian masters like Lee Chang-dong who scored a record 3.8 out of 4 stars in a Screen magazine poll for “Burning”, about a young man's mounting rage over unrequited love and set near the North Korean border.
Hirokazu Kore-eda of Japan also moved audiences with “Shoplifters”, about a family of small-time crooks who take in a child they find on the street. 
Turkey's Ceylan, who took home the Palme d'Or four years ago for “Winter Sleep”, earned rave reviews for his epic homecoming drama “The Wild Pear Tree”. And Matteo Garrone of Italy, best known for mafia tableau “Gomorrah”, 
delighted cinemagoers with “Dogman” about a soft-spoken pooch groomer who stands up to a local heavy.
'Less America-centric'
In 2017, the top prize went to Ruben Ostlund's “The Square,” an art world send-up that went on to bag an Oscar nomination. This year there were less-lavish parties and fewer A-listers on the Croisette seaside boulevard.
However industry insiders dismissed talk of a festival in crisis, saying the sprawling annual event was returning to its core mission in the face of showbiz “disruption”.
US magazine Vanity Fair called 2018 a “pivot year”, as movie studios plump for social media to promote their blockbusters instead of the splashy French Riviera promotions of old.
“We've found a festival with a renewed spirit,” Vanity Fair said. “In making the festival a little less America-centric than it has been lately, Cannes has re-asserted itself as the premier destination for daring, provocative international cinema.”
Variety noted that Cannes remained a “major hub” for the film rights trade and said “many projects for sale are embracing inclusiveness, with a raft of sales for female filmmakers”.
Spike Lee told AFP that for directors doing edgy work, “Cannes is the greatest film festival in the world, there is no argument. This is the Mecca, this is the greatest stage.”
By AFP's Deborah Cole


Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.