Support crucial for dissident directors
Travolta’s family film
CANNES, France, May 8, (AFP): Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi said it was crucial for festivals to support dissident filmmakers like his banned colleague Jafar Panahi who has not been allowed to attend Cannes.
Farhadi was to start the race for the festival’s coveted Palme d’Or prize late Tuesday when he premieres his psychological thriller “Everybody Knows” starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
Panahi is also in the running for his new feature, “Three Faces”, but has been barred from travelling by the Iranian authorities. Pleas by US director Oliver Stone and other supporters to lift the constraints on Panahi have fallen on deaf ears in Tehran.
“Of course, you have to keep trying (to get him to come). I think we must try, we must do what we can to express our support so that he comes,” Farhadi told AFP.
“But we must not forget that what is essential for him and for any filmmaker is that his film be seen. That’s the most important thing.”
Panahi was banned from making films and leaving the country after supporting mass protests in 2009 and making a series of films that critiqued the state of modern Iran.
That has not stopped him from working in secret in the country and his 2015 picture “Taxi” won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival to the consternation of his conservative critics back home.
“Three Faces” is one of 21 films vying for the Palme d’Or, to be awarded on May 19.
Cannes has this year also invited Russia’s Kirill Serebrennikov, under house arrest in Moscow on embezzlement charges his allies claim are political, with little sign he’ll be able to attend.
Farhadi said he was “not very optimistic” for a surprise reprieve for Cannes “because for the moment there has been no sign of detente despite the support expressed by his colleagues.”
“But what I’m happy about is that despite the restrictions he’s had and the situation he’s been in for years, he hasn’t let himself feel down, he hasn’t become isolated, depressed,” he said.
“He’s continued to work on what he’s interested in, and his films are recognised. That in itself is very important.”
Farhadi is no stranger to Cannes. Two of his films — “The Past” (2013) and “The Salesman” (2016) — have clinched awards at the glitzy French Riviera event.
The latter picture and his international hit “A Separation” both scooped Academy Awards for best foreign film.
Farhadi shot “Everybody Knows” entirely in Spain, in Spanish — a language he does not speak — while “The Past” was set in Paris and filmed largely in French. But he said he prefers working in Iran.
“For me, working in my country is simpler, it’s a society I know better, even if it has its own restrictions, its own complications, it’s still my culture, my language,” he said.
“Working abroad is a challenge, but it’s also interesting. It’s important for me to get out of my comfort zone, to not just do things that I know I can do and that will be successful. I’d rather take risks.”
A long-awaited biopic of the notorious New York mafia boss John Gotti starring John Travolta is slated to premiere at Cannes, the film festival said Tuesday.
The movie — which is being shown at a ‘private presentation’ on May 15 — traces the epic rise and fall of the Gambino crime clan, one of America’s most powerful mafia gangs in the 1980s.
The film is very much a family affair, featuring Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston as Gotti’s wife Victoria, and his daughter Ella Bleu as Gotti’s daughter Angel Gotti.
“We’re hoping to use Cannes as our launching pad,” the film’s marketing and distribution chief Dennis Rice told the Hollywood Reporter.
The project first took root in 2011 when John Gotti Jr. signed a deal with a little-known producer to make a film about his father.
But soon after Travolta agreed to play the lead role, the movie ran into obstacles, triggering a seemingly endless exodus of directors.
Shooting finally began two years ago under the direction of Kevin Connolly of “Entourage” fame.
But the highly anticipated planned release in December 2017 was cancelled at the last minute.
However, this time producers are confident that it will at last hit the screen, with indie distributor Vertical Entertainment has announced the US release for June 15.
Under house arrest since August last year, Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov will miss the Cannes Film Festival this week, where his film “Leto” or Summer is competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or prize.
The film tells the story of Soviet-Korean rock legend Viktor Tsoi, whose songs are seen in Russia as anthems of the late 1980s Perestroika era.
Serebrennikov edited the film under house arrest after he was arrested on embezzlement charges he dismisses as “absurd.” The case, which many see as political, has sent shockwaves through Moscow’s culture circles.
The 48-year-old has revolutionised Moscow’s theatre scene with radical stagings of new plays and reinvented classics. He has also staged ballets and an opera at the legendary Bolshoi theatre.
As a film director he has received critical acclaim, winning prizes at the Cannes and Rome film festivals while his 2012 film “Betrayal” was nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion at Venice.
Serebrennikov was born in Rostov-on-Don,a southern Russian city of a million people not far from the border with Ukraine.