Politics the big issue on Cannes's big screen

20th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 20, 2007 (AFP) - Politics, always part of the heady mix fuelling the Cannes film festival, has come to the fore early in the 60th edition of the cinema event.

CANNES, France, May 20, 2007 (AFP) - Politics, always part of the heady mix fuelling the Cannes film festival, has come to the fore early in the 60th edition of the cinema event.

Michael Moore, who won the festival's Palme d'Or three years ago with "Fahrenheit 9/11," and A-list star Leonardo DiCaprio, who this year unveiled an eco-documentary he made, led the charge at the weekend.

*sidebar1*Moore presented "Sicko," a harsh look at America's deficient, privately run health system, and seized the opportunity of the media spotlight to take potshots at his favourite target: US President George W. Bush.

"This is an administration that flouts the law, flouts the constitution," Moore said, as he blasted a US government probe into a trip he made to Cuba for his latest film.

"The point was not to go to Cuba, it was to go to American soil, to Guantanamo Bay and to take 9/11 rescue workers there to receive the same medical care given to the Al-Qaeda detainees," he railed.

"Sicko," likewise, smacks down US politicians -- including Bush -- depicted as having been bought off by big business, and laments the fact that the United States rejects the "socialist" model that provides effective state health care in other Western countries.

DiCaprio screened "The 11th Hour" -- which proved disappointing to critics expecting a film similar to "An Inconvenient Truth", the documentary fronted by Al Gore and presented at Cannes last year -- and talked over environmental issues with reporters.

The "Titanic" star was especially touchy over insinuations that his jetsetting life was hypocritical in view of his "green" commitments -- a sensitivity whose roots go back to 2000, when environmental activists claimed his film "The Beach" damaged part of a Thai national park during shooting.

In 2005, DiCaprio bought Blackadore Caye, an island off the coast of Belize, with the aim of building an eco-friendly resort.

Asked whether he had taken a fuel-guzzling flight on his way to the French Riviera, the Hollywood heartthrob was sarcastic. "No, I took a train across the Atlantic," he said, adding: "We're all trying the best we can, truly, we really are."

Although neither of the films are competing for the Palme d'Or, others that were contenders also sallied forth with political messages.

"Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days" used the premise of the horrific events surrounding a prohibited abortion in Romania under the rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to look at the repression Communism inflicted on lives, and to promote feminism.

Director Cristian Mungiu said the message was simple: "Fear cancels out freedom."

The legalisation of abortion after the fall of the Iron Curtain was seen as the "ultimate freedom," she said.

In "Tehilim," a family drama set in Jerusalem and made by French director Raphael Nadjari, politics initially seems absent from the sparse story.

But, little by little, the viewer is introduced to a world that is stuck between modernity and tradition, between spirituality and pragmatism, a world where a father figure -- maybe a representation of God -- is missing.

The socio-political themes are to continue with the festival, which ends May 27.

On Wednesday, an exiled Iranian living in Paris, Marjane Satrapi, will be exposing religious repression in her homeland in humorous fashion in "Persepolis," an animated version of a series of popular comic books she has made.

Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news, Cannes Film Festival

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