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Cannes Film Festival unveils politically charged line-up for 2017

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP | Cannes Film Festival General Delegate Thierry Fremaux (L) and Festival President Pierre Lescure announce the movies in official competition for the 70th International Cannes film festival, on April 13, 2017 in Paris.

When the official selection for the Cannes Film Festival’s 70th annual edition was unveiled Thursday, a clear theme could be seen in many of the picks: the migrant crisis.


FRANCE 24 takes a look at the films selected both in and out of competition - this year the films take the burning issues challenging our world and transfer them to the silver screen.

France’s iconic film festival, a celebration of world cinema, just happens to begin immediately after France’s presidential election, as almost an epilogue to this fraught and highly divisive campaign. Undoubtedly, politics will still be on festival-goers’ lips when the event begins on May 17.

Revealing 2017’s official selection, festival president Pierre Lescure and his general delegate Thierry Frémaux said it themselves: "While Cannes intends to serve as an enchanted parenthetical in the madness of the news cycle, the festival cannot eschew the realities of the world today, be it Donald Trump’s fits, atrocities in Syria or North Korea’s warmongering. Beyond the glamour of the red carpet, La Quinzaine, as the festival’s fortnight is affectionately known, seeks to 'reflect the world'."

A brief run-down of some of the selection committee’s picks shows that there are 49 films in all, including 18 in competition. Furthermore, all of them have yet to be released.

In competition, Austrian director Michael Haneke will be vying for his record third Palme d’Or with “Happy End”, a drama that looks at the migrant crisis from the perspective of people who would rather shield their eyes from it, in this case a family that lives near a refugee camp.

“The film takes place entirely in Calais, with migrants as the backdrop," says veteran of French cinema Jean-Louis Trintignant, who plays a key character. “It is the story of an affluent family of public-works entrepreneurs who built the Channel Tunnel. It features Isabelle Huppert, Mathieu Kassovitz and a little girl. It’s very beautiful,” says Trintignant, who starred with Huppert and Emmanuelle Riva in Haneke’s 2012 Palme d’Or laureate Amour.

In “Jupiter’s Moon”, also in competition, Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo comes at the subject of migrants from an entirely different angle. Touted as science fiction, the film traces the wanderings of a refugee who, in attempting to reach Hungary, realises he has a curious power: he can levitate. Mundruczo previously wrote and directed the excellent “White God” about a canine revolt in the streets of Budapest. The filmmaker likes to use allegories to talk about his native Hungary, currently led by the populist Viktor Orban, and Europe, increasingly at the mercy of inward-looking nationalist sentiment.

In a special screening, British actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave will present “Sea Sorrow”, an out-of-competition documentary about men and women who help refugees. Redgrave says she began writing the film – her first behind the camera – after the photograph of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach, was published in 2015. The 79-year-old stage and screen star filmed on location in France, Greece, Italy and Lebanon. In December, when she screened the film for minors who had previously lived in Calais’s “Jungle” refugee camp, she told Agence France-Presse that she hopes the film “will help keep people human and trying to help”.

Finally, “Out”, a feature-length film by Slovakian director Gyorgy Kristof, looks at “migrant workers, those who, in this Europe, travel East to West and North to South” to find a job, says Frémaux. In the film, a fifty-something Slovakian father leaves home to work on a shipbuilding site in Latvia. But he becomes marginalised over the course of his journey, a story full of twists and turns and obstacles. The film features in Cannes’s “Un certain regard” line-up.

The coveted Palme d’Or is due to be awarded on May 28.

This article has been translated from the original, in French.

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