Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cannes 2016 Day 4

Ingrid Bisu

Valerie Kaprisky

Stefanie Giesinger

Paz Vega

Thylane Blondeau

Rebecca Hall

Salma Hayek

Stacey Bendet

Petra Nĕmcová

Frédérique Bel

Kendall Jenner

Kristina Bazan

Doutzen Kroes

Sabine Azema

Max von Sydow

Steven Spielberg

A collection of pieces from The Hollywood Reporter:

Red carpet photos from PopSugar:

A French site that lists daily galleries of red carpet photos:

Celebrities arrive for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, from The NY Daily News:

Daily list of best dressed at Cannes from Blouin Art Info:            

People magazine hits the Cannes red carpet:,,21005726_30489946,00.html  

Nasri Hajjaj

Israel lobby pushing to ban Palestinian film at Cannes  Ali Abunimah from The Electronic Intifada, May 13, 2016

Israel lobby groups in France are applying intense pressure to block the screening of a Palestinian documentary at the Cannes Film Festival, which began this week.

The mayor of Cannes has also told French authorities that the screening could threaten “public order.”

A short segment of Nasri Hajjaj’s work in progress, Munich: A Palestinian Story, is due to be screened on Monday as part of the Marché du Film, a collaboration between the Cannes festival and the Dubai International Film Festival.

The initiative brings a number of works in progress from Arab filmmakers to international audiences and potential distributors.

On 3 May, Roger Cukierman, president of France’s main Israel lobby group, CRIF, wrote to the head of the Cannes film festival to express his organization’s “concern and profound malaise” about the planned screening of Hajjaj’s work.

Cukierman claimed that the film engages in “historical revisionism” about the 1972 raid on the Munich Olympics by the Palestinian group Black September, in which 11 Israeli athletes, a German police officer and five hostage takers died.

But Cukierman cannot know this since the unfinished film has never been screened publicly.

Cukierman nonetheless claims the screening would be a “provocation all the more scandalous in the context of the terrorist violence that affects our country, and which such a film indirectly legitimizes.”

CRIF effectively uses the recent mass killings by suspected Islamic State militants in France and Belgium as a lever to shut down discussion of Palestinian history and to tar Palestinians with those attacks.

Mayor intervenes

The French Jewish communal website Le Monde Juif is claiming that the screening has already been canceled after intervention by interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

It calls the alleged cancellation “a victory against hatred of Israel.”

The website claims that Cannes mayor David Lisnard sent a letter to the head of the city’s Jewish community, Gérard Bavard, stating that “the documentary is ‘an attack’ on the memory of the victims and could constitute a disturbance to public order.”

The press office at Cannes city hall confirmed in an email to The Electronic Intifada that the mayor had been “informed by an organization of the planned screening of Munich: A Palestinian Story” and that the organization said that “this screening could cause a disturbance to public order.”

“As a consequence, the mayor transmitted this information to the competent authorities, that is to say the state security services and the Cannes film festival organizers,” the office said.

“The mayor, however, has no power to cancel the screening of a film scheduled for the Marché du Film, and such a decision is not part of his duties,” the statement adds.


A source close to the Marché du Film told The Electronic Intifada that while intense pressure is being applied, no decision to cancel the screening has been made.

The source asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter.

But the source stressed that what is due to be screened is nothing more than a few minutes of an unfinished film that has never been screened to any audience.

The source said that, in effect, CRIF is calling for preemptive censorship of a film no one has seen.

The film’s director, Nasri Hajjaj, has previously noted that “eight films have been made on the Munich chapter, but none of them are Palestinian or Arab.”

“I want to present the Palestinian version of this story,” Hajjaj has said, “which is not necessarily uncritical of the operation and its [consequences].”

Hajjaj grew up in Lebanon’s Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp and knew Afif Hamid, one of the Munich hostage takers, as a child.

“I therefore felt a personal connection to the Munich chapter,” Hajjaj has said.

His synopsis states that “the term ‘terrorism’ will be discussed with all of the concerned parties. It will be an attempt to present different views – irrespective of the support for or condemnation of the events in Munich in 1972.”

In France, where many claim that virtually any denigration or dehumanization of Muslims or Arabs must be celebrated as “free speech” under the banner “Je Suis Charlie,” such reflection is apparently forbidden.

If the censors win, it will be another example of the Palestine exception to free speech in operation.

Mirroring the luxurious surroundings of the Cannes Film Festival taking place in Paris is Gaza’s 2nd annual Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival.  While this is a marked improvement from last year (seen above) when the premiere event took place outside amidst the crumbling rubble of war destruction that left half a million Palestinians displaced, leaving the city in a permanent state of emergency, considered uninhabitable by a United Nations assessment until the year 2020 (UN: Gaza may be uninhabitable by 2020 on current trends - Al Jazeera), this year it was held at the Rashad Al-Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City, with men, women, and children of all ages, where Hamas officials ordered that the lights be left on during the films.  

The House Lights, if Not the Stars, Shine Bright at Gaza's Film Festival  Diaa Hadid and Majd al Waheidi from The New York Times, May 13, 2016

GAZA CITY — On the big screen, a Palestinian was trying to audition for a singing contest over the Internet, because he was unable to leave the Gaza Strip. But the shoddy connection kept freezing, and the plucky hero eventually disappeared into a hazy cloud of belching smoke, as the generator he was using broke down.

Life imitates art in Gaza as anywhere else. The volume on the film veered madly between screeching and whispers. The hall was stifling for lack of air-conditioning in a place were power is restricted and never reliable.

The movie, ”The Idol” — based on the real-life “Arab Idol” winner, Mohammed Assaf — showed a Hamas gunman refusing to let the singer travel because his music is “un-Islamic.” And the organizers of the film festival where it was being screened had not even invited Mr. Assaf to attend for fear Hamas, the militant Islamist party that rules Gaza, would not allow it.

Hamas officials had insisted on censoring the festival’s offerings, editing out profanity, kissing and women in short skirts. And, on opening night, they ordered that the lights in the hall be left on to prevent any hanky-panky in the seats.

“You work in the margins, and this is what is possible for you,” sighed Khalil Mozayen, the director of the event, Gaza’s Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival, whose motto is “We Want to Breathe.”

The five-day festival, which started Thursday night, coincides with Cannes, but there was little resemblance beyond the red carpet laid over the steps of Gaza’s Rashad Shawa Cultural Center.

This is Gaza’s second film festival, and like many second acts, it was tough to pull off.

Last year, Mr. Mozayen staged an emotional debut festival in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City that was smashed during the devastating 2014 summer war between Israel and Gaza militants. He unfurled the red carpet between the ruins, and ordinary Palestinians walked upon it, attracting a frenzy of international news media attention.

That event was championed by Hamas, despite the group’s general suspicion of Western-style cultural events, because it drew attention to the plight of postwar Gaza.

This year, Mr. Mozayen ventured into more delicate territory: a cry for neighboring Israel and Egypt to allow Palestinians to move more freely across the strip’s tightly controlled borders, and for Hamas to loosen its restrictions on personal freedoms, including watching movies.

He immediately encountered obstacles on the path (or red carpet, if you will).

The 30 films being shown include features, shorts and documentaries made by Palestinians as well as people from the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Mr. Mozayen constantly avoided movies with racy themes, including “Degrade,” by Gaza’s best-known filmmakers, brothers known as Arab and Tarzan, who live abroad. (The film, about a woman’s hair salon in Gaza, was widely panned when it premiered at Cannes last year.)

He even pre-emptively cut kissing scenes out of his own movie, “Sara” — a rare feature film made in Gaza, about a film crew trying to make a movie about the killing of a woman.

Other offerings included “Theeb,” a 2014 Academy Award-nominated movie from Jordan, and “3000 Nights,” a 2015 feature by Mai Masri, a Palestinian-American director.

Atef Askoul, the Culture Ministry official who approved the films after some adjustments, said that Gazans “love watching American films,” but “we are an Islamic society.”

“My wife and my daughter and my sister will watch these films,” he explained, “and we cannot allow to show shots that are bad.”

Location was another sticking point. Mr. Mozayen’s team wanted to stage the festival in Gaza’s port. Mr. Askoul said no — there would be too many opportunities for men and women to mix illicitly in the dark outside, and it would be too difficult to control the crowd.

So Mr. Mozayen suggested one of Gaza’s old cinema houses, which are now all closed. Most of them were burned down or shut down in the 1980s by Islamists who saw movies as Western and frivolous, especially given the raging intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

Mr. Askoul approved of the cinema idea. But the owners of the shuttered open-air Amer Cinema were not speaking to each other and refused to allow any events there, Mr. Mozayen said.

At the Amer Cinema, piles of decades-old film reels sit in a dusty heap. An old beer bottle on the floor is a reminder of days long gone, even before the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, when residents could drink alcohol openly. A spray-painted advertisement for the 1982 Hindi movie “Disco Dancer” was still visible on a faded blue-painted wall.

Mr. Mozayen glumly settled on the cultural center, a meeting place for Gaza’s elites — though he hardly saw it as a suitable setting for a people’s film festival.

Instead, with the red carpet cascading down the stairs at the center, the event took on some trappings of a faraway society event.

Neatly dressed men and women in full makeup and head scarves took selfies. Two little girls handed carnations to guests. Two camera drones hovered above.

Journalists stalked the carpet, photographing and interviewing Palestinians and a handful of foreign aid workers who live in Gaza.

A private security guard stopped a 12-year-old girl who was selling balloons at the door. She peered inside, partially blocking entry with her cluster of colorful globes.

Sabah Hamad, 30, left with her friends at 9:30 p.m., when the film had barely begun because of an hourlong delay. “We cannot stay out late, because we are girls,” she said with a shrug, referring to Gaza’s conservatism.

“The last time I went to the cinema in Gaza was in 1976,” said one of the guests, Ahmad Gherbawi, 60, a professor at a university in Saudi Arabia. He said he has been stuck in Gaza for two years because of border closings by Egypt.

“We were in love with Bruce Lee,” Mr. Gherbawi said. Decades ago, he said, “Gaza was beautiful and free.”

“Now it is dark,” he added, filled with “new restrictions.”

Not so, insisted Walid Abu Jayyab, an actor in a series about Palestinian fighters on Hamas’s al-Aqsa television. He came to watch “The Idol” but was unmoved. Instead, he said, “I wish we could have a ‘Resistance Cinema’ that enhances the culture of resistance against the enemy.”

At the end of “The Idol,” the character based on Mr. Assaf manages to sneak into Egypt, helped at the last minute by the Hamas gunman — who hugs him, and wishes him well.

That prompted cheers in the stifling hall. Mr. Mozayen, the festival director, managed to get some of the house lights turned off, earning even more applause.

Clash review – horrifying one-location drama tackles Egyptian conflict   Benjamin Lee from The Guardian, May 13, 2016
How does a director begin to convey the sheer horror of finding yourself in the middle of a country at war with itself? There’s a fine line to tread between involving the viewer in the situation at hand and remaining authentic, refusing to embellish for the sake of cinema.

To explain the chaos that erupted after the Egyptian revolution, director Mohamed Diab has crafted an ingenious construct. Set in 2013, two years after the Tahrir Square protests (already covered flawlessly in Jehane Noujaim’s excellent documentary The Square), his frighteningly naturalistic drama is spent entirely in a police riot van in the midst of violent protests.

One-by-one, the vehicle is filled with a variety of demonstrators and journalists, who remain in bitter conflict with one another. The prisoners belong in opposing groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the military supporters, but refreshingly, and vitally, the film doesn’t choose a side. Instead it shows us a group of people forced into factions by circumstance or lineage, unwilling to back down.

Running throughout the film is an infuriating sense of injustice, a shared rage and growing empathy for the people we get to know as the policemen who keep them captive exhibit increasingly inhumane behaviour. These aren’t violent or particularly dangerous characters, but their treatment is rough and senseless. It gives the story added, global timeliness with the unthinking depravity from officials recalling recent tales of police brutality spreading across the US.

While this is only Diab’s second film (his first, Cairo 678, focused on the sexual harassment of women in Egypt), his craftsmanship is breathtaking. As the van moves on, we see ambitiously staged scenes of pandemonium taking place through the windows, yet he resists the temptation to “go wide” and show us more. It recalls the lauded shootout sequence in Cary Fukunaga’s first season of True Detective with the focus remaining tight, yet the action reaching far beyond the screen. Credit also to the sound designers for ratcheting up the tension with every crash, bang or rock thrown, which helps make us more uncomfortable.

Some of the dialogue is a tad heavy-handed (at one point one of the journalists says: “Today I’m out to cover the news, not be the news”) and some of the plot machinations a bit far-fetched (there are some soapy revelations inside the van late in the film) but this is a ferociously well-made film right through to the bitter end. The final scene leaves us horrified, as it should. Diab’s small location results in a big impact.

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Cannes critics ratings, a composite of 7 different critic scores:

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:

Screendaily Jury Grid (Page 80 from Digital edition from Day 5)

Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well (click on image to obtain a full screen):

While Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for winners: 

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The round-up of various links covering Cannes:

Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on the reviews, they are at least temporarily open to the public:, also:

David Hudson does all the links for each review at Fandor:

The Film Center’s Barbara Scharres, Ben Kenigsberg and Chaz Ebert at Cannes from the Roger Ebert blog:

The Guardian collection of reviews:

Mike D’Angelo back at The Onion A.V. Club:

Sophie Monks Kaufman and David Jenkins from Little White Lies:

Daniel Kasman, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi Notebook:

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph:

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ioncinema:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

Glenn Heath Jr. from The L-magazine:

Various writers at Twitch: 

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he finds off the beaten track film fare:

Koji Fukada maintains a simmering tension from start to finish in his Un Certain Regard entry “Harmonium.”  The tension is initially when will the wife of the owner of a small manufacturing firm learn that the man he has just hired and invited to live with them is an ex-con.  Her first reaction is not happy at all with the arrangement, but then she takes a liking to him, especially when he develops a strong relationship with her young daughter.  The tension escalates when the ex-con reveals himself not to be the docile, reformed murderer that he appears to be.  All the intricate plot twists and nuances of this story are perfectly credible, as if it were recounting actual events.  This was the most riveting of the twenty-six films I have seen so far.  Ralph agreed that it stood above everything he has seen so far as well.  

“At Your Doorstep,” a Spanish film about the mortgage crisis, is packed with legitimate tension as well.  Since 2008 there have been more than 500,000 evictions in Spain, an average of 170 a day.  This is the story of a young family dealing with the issue.  They have two days to come up with their latest payment or the parent’s of the wife, who they have been forced to live with, will lose their home as well.  With such a deadline, which the Loach film lacked, this film had a genuine sense of urgency, and in some ways was a better film, though it won’t be recognized as such since it has a smaller platform.  Yesterday’s Loach film received only a mixed reaction, with an average score of 2.4 on a four point scale from “Screen” magazine’s panel of twelve critics.  One of the two French critics thought it so contrived he gave it zero stars.  The lone four-star review came from the British critic Nick James of “Sight and Sound.”

There was some tension in my day’s lone Competition film, the lusciously stylistic “The Handmaiden” by Park Chan-wook.  It is the first South Korean film in Competition in four years.  His “Old Boy,” which Spike Lee did a remake of, won the Grand Prix in 2003. The tension would have been more palpable if the con being perpetrated had been more evident.  It is only fully revealed in subsequent retellings of the story of a young woman enlisted by a con man to be the servant of a wealthy woman he’s seducing.  The con goes awry when the women fall in love.  Their couplings are more graphic and luscious than those of the Palm d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color.”  The sex scenes are the dominant feature of the film, earning it the label of an “erotic thriller.”

I allowed the casting of Mathieu Amalric, who has been a big draw in France since “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” won the best director award at Cannes in 2007, to lure me to see “Struggle for Life,” a French farce about building an indoor ski resort in French Guinana.  Amalric is a bureacrat in Guinana and only has a small role in the film.  The lead is a young man who is hired as an intern to assist with the project. He has way more authority than he can handle and is a bungling fool, getting lost in the jungle.  He’s 27, the same age as the average age of Napolean’s generals, but in the present age, much too young for such responsibility.  

“Welcome to Norway” transported me from the tropics to the arctic.  A guy with a run-down hotel decides to convert it into a home for fifty refugees.  The state subsidies can make him a wealthy man.  The refugees arrive before he has made it fully habitable.  The refugees from all over Africa and the Middle East range from being helpful to being demanding.  One has been a refugee for over ten years and has high expectations on how he ought to be treated, as do most of them. This less than fully-realized effort was more of a comedy than a portrayal of real issues.

I thought I might see Milos of Facets at “The Green Fairy,” a documentary on absinthe, as Vincent Van Gogh was mentioned in the program blurb as a character in the film.  Milos had recently given a presentation at Chicago’s Art Institute on the portrayal of Van Gogh in cinema, culminating with a twenty-minute short by Alain Resnais.  Janina had attended the talk and said it was excellent—“a triumph.”  If Milos had attended this film he would have been perturbed by the overbearing sound track.  I had seen him earlier in the festival after he had seen the documentary “The First Monday in May” and he had complained how documentaries so often fail with their sound tracks.  

Absinthe was created in he late 1700s but its period of fame came a century later when it became popular as a cheap and inspiring drink among the artistic set.  The film includes reinactments of Van Gogh and Gaughin using it and Oscar Wilde as well singing its praises.  It was at one time banned in the US but is now regaining popularity.

“X” is a Japanese heavy metal band that has been a phenomenon in its country since the ‘80s, “the greatest band you have never heard of” according to the program.  Gene Simmons of Kiss maintains that if it were an American or British band it would be recognized as one of the best in the world.  “We Are X” traces their history and includes a climatic performance at Madison Square Garden.

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