Making a Movie (8)

Sat 24 May 2014 (Barcelona)

I returned from the Cannes Film Market a few days ago.

The Cannes Film Festival ends tonight.

Some of the prizes have already been awarded. Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó has won the ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize for White God – a film about a canine uprising. He therefore also won the ‘Palme Dog’ award a few days ago (seriously). The jury prize in the same section of ‘Un Certain Regard’ went to Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure, about a family in crisis during a skiing vacation. Outgoing Cannes president Gilles Jacob apparently took to the stage during the awards for ‘Un Certain Regard’, first created in 1978, to say that he wanted to celebrate ‘unpronounceable names from our foreign lands’. I’d been hoping that British writer/director Andrew Hulme’s Snow in Paradise was going to win something. I’d briefly met the producer, Christine Alderson from Ipso Facto Films, at the European Film Market in Berlin, and had been following her experiences at a UK Film seminar, press conferences and on the red carpet at Cannes – but despite the great reviews, the film’s team received no awards. Perhaps their names weren’t unpronounceable enough.

The top prizes for the main selection, the Palme d’Or, will be awarded tonight during the closing ceremony at the ‘Palais del Festivals’, with jury president Jane Campion announcing the winners. Mike Leigh’s Mr.Turner received rave reviews and must be in with a chance to win the main prize, with Timothy Spall as possible ‘best actor’ for his role as the painter JMW Turner. But some say that as it was shown so early in the competition (it was the first of 18 films competing), it might not be ‘uppermost’ in the jurors’ minds. From the reviews I’ve read, I predict that Spall will win best actor – Marion Cotillard will win best actress for her role in Two Days, One Night – but that the Palme d’Or will go to …

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan.

Why?

Not just because it has received rave reviews (The Guardian has described it as a ‘masterpiece … a movie with real grandeur’), or that it was the last film to be screened in competition – or that the director is unpronounceable enough. It was also snubbed by Russia’s minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky, who cancelled plans to join the film’s delegation on the red carpet at Cannes, stating that he ‘did not like it’ and that there was ‘abundant profanity’ in the script. What better publicity? What with Pussy Riot, the Sochi Olympics, the on-going homosexual persecution, the invasion of Ukraine – and now even Prince Charles comparing Putin to Hitler … Russia hasn’t exactly enjoyed the best of Cannes, either. I heard that many Russian film executives had to cancel their travel plans and hotel reservations, with reports that their credit cards weren’t working, thanks to the international monetary sanctions.

It might be that Medinsky snubbed Leviathan because it is a powerful drama of local corruption and intimidation set in Putin’s contemporary Russia. It tells the tale of a family man stripped of his seaside home by the crooked mayor of a small North Russia town.

So, thanks to the snub from its culture minister, is Russia about to receive its Cannes ‘moment’? A little bit like the anti-Russia Eurovision ‘moment’, but without the beard and the dress …

In the meantime, I must press on with the film we are producing. I now say ‘we’ because the Cannes Film Market meetings couldn’t have gone any better. It is a UK-Spain co-production, with no Russian participation, and I’m 100% sure we won’t be snubbed by any British or Spanish culture minister on a red carpet a year from now …

(To be continued … )

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