2022 Cannes Film Festival is back on the cultural calendar

18 May

This is the third time Serebrennikov is in Cannes. The Russian, who was under house arrest in his native country for two years, now lives in Germany. 


The biographical film recounts an episode from the life of the world-famous Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky, who, afraid of coming out as homosexual, married a young woman who was in love with him that resulted in a tumultuous marriage and her descent into madness.

The return of the acclaimed

"Tchaikovsky's Wife" is in the running with 20 other films — of which four are directed by women — for the Palme d'Or. Among them are many returnees who have won the prestigious prize. US veteran David Cronenberg, for example, makes his highly anticipated comeback with "Crimes of the Future", featuring Lea Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart in leading roles. The science fiction horror film is set in a future world where the biological makeup of humans can be altered by advanced technologies.

Other previous winners include Belgian brothers duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Swedish director Ruben Östlund, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the 2018 Palme d'Or for "Shoplifters," and Romania's Cristian Mungiu. South Korean director Park Chan-wook has also been honored twice at Cannes with the Jury Prize. His film in the running this time is called "Decision to Leave" and is a mystery thriller.

"Armageddon Time" boasts a star-studded cast. The film by US American James Grey is set during the election period of Ronald Reagan, in which the Trump family also had a hand. Anne Hathaway and Anthony Hopkins play the main roles. The director has already been invited to Cannes five times but has so far come away empty-handed.

Horror and glamour

There is no shortage of gruesome films to watch this year, starting with the opening film "Coupez!", a zombie comedy by "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius. Translated as "Cut!" — a word play on what film directors often shout at the end of a take — it is about film craft and vampirism. Originally titled "Z (comme Z)," the film was renamed because the letter 'Z' could be associated with the symbol used by Russia in the Ukraine war.

The thriller "Holy Spider," an entry by Iranian director Ali Abbasi, shares its eerie mood. A man known as the "Spider Killer" wreaks havoc in the holy Iranian city of Mashhad by murdering prostitutes, in what he sees as his divine mission.

Several premiers of films not in the running will also add to the festival's glamor quotient. There is the sequel to the cult 1986 action film "Top Gun", starring Tom Cruise, and Australian director Baz Luhrmann's highly anticipated biophic of the King of Rock'n'Roll, titled "Elvis." US actor Austin Butler plays the young Elvis, while Tom Hanks plays his equally legendary manager.

Europe and its migration history

A lack of representation from Africa is woefully evident, with no competition entries from the entire continent. Yet, some directors have dedicated themselves to the topics of colonialism, migration and racism. The Belgian Dardenne brothers present "Tori and Lokita", a drama about two young migrants from Africa, with Joely Mbundu and Pablo Schils playing the main roles.

In "Mother and Son," French director Leonor Serraille tells the story of Rose and her two sons, Ernest and Jean, who emigrate from the Ivory Coast to Paris in 1986. The film follows the family until 2010, showing how they grow together but also almost break apart. Catalan video artist Albert Serra's work "Pacification — Tourment sur les iles" is set in French Polynesia and focuses on the conflicts between the French establishment and the local population.

Christian Mungiu's competition entry could be instructive for understanding racism. His drama "RMN" unfolds in a village community in Transylvania. After an influx of foreign factory workers, racist prejudices take over. A disturbing melange of fears, frustrations, conflicts and passions break out.

Ukrainian films and Russia boycott

In early March, the film festival had announced that it would exclude Russian delegations from participating until Russia's invasion ceased under conditions that satisfied the Ukrainian people. And indeed, no official Russian representatives, filmmakers, film critics or journalists have been invited to the event this year. The fact that Kirill Serebrennikov, who lives in Germany, is now in the competition softens this hard stance only slightly.

Generally, the ban precludes people like renowned Russian film critic Andrei Plakhov, from Lviv, from attending the event. However, he reacted with aplomb. "Perhaps we really need to understand what it is to be a citizen of an aggressor country," he wrote in a public statement on his Facebook page.

Not everyone in Ukraine shares the "zero tolerance" policy toward everything Russian, however. For example, Sergei Loznitsa, arguably Ukraine's most renowned filmmaker, spoke out against the blanket boycott of Russian films in March.

"What's going on is terrible," he said in an interview with Variety. "But I appeal to everyone not to go into a frenzy. We need to judge people not by their passports, but by their actions." That position earned Loznitsa an expulsion from Ukraine's National Film Academy, which was founded in 2017. At Cannes, his film "The Natural History of Destruction" is screening as a special out-of-competition entry.

Filming on the front

The film "Mariupolis 2" by Mantas Kvedaravicius will also be shown in Cannes just weeks after the Lithuanian director was murdered by the Russian army in Mariupol in April. His fiancee Hanna Bilobrova, who was on location with him, was able to secure the footage that had already been shot. Together with Kvedaravicius' editor Dounia Sichov, a harrowing, highly topical contemporary testimony was created. Thus festival organizers announced that was absolutely essential to present "Mariupolis 2" at Cannes, which was why the film was added to the program only recently and will premiere on May 19.

In one of the festival's side programs, "Un Certain Regard" ("A Special Look"), another film is attracting attention, namely, "Vision of a Butterfly" by young Ukrainian director Maksim Nakonechnyi. Completed before the war, the film tells a "harsh surrealist story of a warrior, the pilot Lilja, who desperately tries to return to her normal life after the experience of captivity," according to the director. "Unfortunately, my film was probably a premonition of war," Nakonechnyi said. Since the start of the Russian invasion, he has now been on the front lines — with his gun and camera. "I want to make a documentary out of this," he said.


Author Anastassia Boutsko

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