Everywhere is war as conflict came to Cannes

24th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

War -- in Iraq, Russia, Algeria and Chad -- was a major theme of the 2010 Cannes festival that saw riot police hold off protestors angered by a film about France's military in north Africa.

A dreamy Thai tale of reincarnation took the top prize on Sunday, and there was a smattering of domestic dramas among the 19 contenders for the Palme d'Or. But those intimate tales were offset by a battalion of powerful war films.

The most controversial was an explosive thriller about the Algerian war of independence titled "Outside The Law," by French-Algerian film-maker Rachid Bouchareb.

When it premiered on Friday, police with batons and shields lined up outside the festival palace as hundreds of people demonstrated at the nearby town hall to denounce the film as anti-French.

Right-wing politicians accused Bouchareb of distorting history in his emotionally-charged account of National Liberation Front (FLN) militants' fight against French colonisation.

The film opens with a massacre of Algerian civilians by French soldiers in the town of Setif in 1945 -- which French historians estimate left 15,000 Algerians dead.

Lawmaker Lionnel Luca, from President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, said it was "a partisan, militant, pro-FLN film" which "compared the French to the (Nazi) SS and the French police to the Gestapo."

But Bouchareb insisted after the screening: "The film isn't a battlefield. The film is not there to provoke confrontation. It is there to launch a calm debate."

Violence in Algeria was also a theme of French film-maker Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men," which scooped the runner-up Grand Prix award at Cannes.

It is the true 1990s story of French monks in Algeria who after years of caring for local Muslims are threatened by war between Islamist militants and the army.

The Iraq war was the subject of two films vying for the Palme d'Or.

Britain's Ken Loach probed the murky world of private security contractors in Iraq with "Route Irish," the name US military gave to the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq from the airport to Baghdad's Green Zone.

The thriller "Fair Game," the true tale of a CIA agent betrayed by the Bush administration, also got its premiere in Cannes with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in the starring roles.

The movie by Doug Liman tells how the spy Valerie Plame was stitched up by a vengeful White House after her diplomat husband denounced its claims that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein was working on weapons of mass destruction.

Chad's on-off civil war provides the backdrop for Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's father-son drama "A Screaming Man," which took the Cannes jury prize.

And World War II made a blockbuster comeback when the most expensive movie ever made in Russia rumbled onto the French Riviera after causing controversy back at home.

"Burnt By The Sun 2: Exodus", a sequel to Nikita Mikhalkov's Oscar-winner shot 15 years back, unspools in the trenches and battlefields of World War II as Germans kill and rape their way across Russia.

The aim of the 40-million-dollar film aimed to provide a Russian take on Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" according to which "the Allies alone won World War II," said Mikhalkov.

But he has been variously accused of being a Stalinist, genius and opportunist, and of hob-nobbing with Russia's political elite while ruling the country's Union of Cinematographers with an iron hand.

© 2010 AFP

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