Cannes set to unfurl against backdrop of war, protests and films

This year’s Cannes Film Festival is set to commence amid a cacophony of global challenges.

The glamorous roll-out of the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals ushers in the 77th Cannes Film Festival, a spectacle shadowed by the realities of conflict, civil unrest, looming strikes, and the #MeToo wave that is rapidly gaining momentum in France.

The festival’s personnel are on the brink of striking. The Israel-Hamas conflict resonates deeply in France, with its sizable Jewish and Arab populations, raising the likelihood of public disturbances. The Russian invasion of Ukraine persists in people’s thoughts. Coupled with uncertainties about the future of cinema and the advent of artificial intelligence, the festival is ripe for high-stakes melodrama.

Adopting a ‘be ready for anything’ mindset seems prudent for attendees of the Cannes Film Festival. The selection of films this year is a tapestry of mystery, interest, and speculation.

Mohammad Rasoulof, an acclaimed Iranian director, was handed an eight-year jail sentence by Iran’s Revolutionary Court just as his film, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” is scheduled to premiere. Nevertheless, it remains on Cannes’ roster.

Francis Ford Coppola’s eagerly anticipated self-funded project “Megalopolis” is poised to create a buzz. Coppola, no stranger to Cannes’ dramatic flair, won the Palme d’Or over forty years ago for “Apocalypse Now,” even with an unfinished version. Political intrigue will be on the docket as well, with a portrayal of a youthful Donald Trump in Ali Abbasi’s “The Apprentice,” a bevy of films by acclaimed directors, and George Miller’s apocalyptic vision “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” set to potentially ignite the atmosphere.

“Cannes is like a film camp,” Miller remarked, referencing the festival’s allure and commitment to cinematic excellence. “I was thrilled at the opportunity to present our film here,” he added.

The festival kicks off with the French comedy “The Second Act” by Quentin Dupieux, featuring a star-studded cast. Meryl Streep is set to receive a Palme d’Or for her lifetime achievements at the opening ceremony, with George Lucas being similarly honored at the festival’s close.

However, Judith Godrèche might command immediate attention as the festival gets underway. Godrèche, a French actor and director, has accused filmmakers Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of assault during her teenage years, stirring the French film industry. Both Jacquot and Doillon refute these claims. Godrèche’s efforts have sparked a broader call for change, marked by her impassioned plea for reform at France’s César Awards and in government circles. Her short film “Moi Aussi,” born out of a Parisian solidarity meeting for abuse survivors, will inaugurate the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

Paul Schrader reminisces about the Cannes of yesteryears while eagerly awaiting his competition entry “Oh, Canada,” a contemplative drama featuring Richard Gere. Schrader’s fond memories of Cannes date back nearly half a century to “Taxi Driver,” and he takes a moment to appreciate the full-circle moment he shares with contemporaries Coppola and Lucas.

Greta Gerwig, riding high on her recent directing triumphs, chairs the jury, which has the arduous task of selecting this year’s Palme d’Or recipient among a formidable lineup, including potential heavyweight films and emerging filmmakers like Julien Colonna. Colonna’s challenging coming-of-age story, “The Kingdom,” promises to offer a fresh perspective and break away from traditional mobster narratives.

Colonna’s debut feature, “The Kingdom,” echoes personal milestones and childhood recollections, grounding its narrative in authenticity and a deeply personal space – an evocative journey brought to life in film.

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