The Press at Cannes | Under high political tension

(Cannes) Just as the posthumous documentary was released at its world premiere on Thursday Mariupolis 2 of filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was assassinated a few weeks ago by the Russian army, Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov appeared at a press conference, in a room next to the Palais des Festivals, to discuss his film Tchaikovsky’s wife.

Posted yesterday at 5:49 pm

Marc Cassivi

Marc Cassivi
The Press

“All Russians must be erased,” Ukrainian film producer Andrew Fesiak told Agence France-Presse after a conference on “Russian propaganda” at the American pavilion. “Serebrennikov must have made the decision on his own not to participate in the Cannes Film Festival,” said Kyiv International Film Festival director Andriy Khalpakhchi.

It shows how Cannes was under high political tension on Thursday. Kirill Serebrennikov, who denounced the invasion of Ukraine after climbing the steps, very sober, of the official screening of his film the previous day, was the only Russian filmmaker selected at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

His case is special. He has been under house arrest in Moscow since 2018 for his support of the LGBTQ+movement, which prevented him from accompanying his two previous films, selected in the competition, at Cannes. Before the war, he was sentenced to parole and preferred to be exiled to Berlin at the start of the war.

On the other hand, his latest film was partially funded by a private foundation owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich, famously close to Vladimir Putin. That suspects him in the eyes of part of the Ukrainian cinema industry.

Wearing a cap and slightly smoky glasses, Serebrennikov has to answer, not surprisingly, more questions about the war than his film, which discusses the brief wedding in front of Tchaikovsky, who is gay, and Antonina Miliukova.

“Whether we like it or not, voluntarily or involuntarily, we are linked to these events,” said the theater and cinema director. As Adorno said, can we make poetry after Auschwitz? »

“Do its part”

Some were outraged that Kirill Serebrennikov, one of the most famous Russian artists of the time, had hosted the competition in Cannes, unlike Ukrainians Sergei Loznitsa and Maksim Nakonechnyi, whose films were shown in other section. In particular, the Ukrainian Film Academy demanded an explicit boycott of Tchaikovsky’s wife.

“I fully understand the people who are calling for this boycott. For them, it is very painful and completely unbearable, “says Kirill Serebrennikov.” But the call for a boycott of culture based solely on one’s nationality, which has been done in the past, I cannot accept. »

Culture is air, it’s water, it’s clouds. I think we should avoid boycotting Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and a fortiori Tchaikovsky. We must not deprive people of culture, music, theater, cinema. That is what keeps them alive.

Kirill Serebrennikov

The general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Frémaux, earlier this week said he understands the point of view of people under bombs every day. “We should try to make a difference between Russians who take risks in the fight against the official word. We try to act as much as possible to try to be fair,” he said on Monday, noting that the Festival has banned any Russia’s official delegation from Cannes, but not its dissident artists.

“Serebrennikov is not an opponent, not everyone,” Andrew Fesiak said. His entire career was funded by Russian government money. While the Russian artist admitted on Thursday that he received state subsidies for some of his older works (before 2014), he clarified that at the time, “having the logo of the Ministry of Culture was not embarrassing “.

The filmmaker also defended Roman Abramovich, owner until recently of English soccer club Chelsea. “He has been a patron for a long time and his foundation has funded many auteur films in Russia. Like President Zelensky, I want to remove the sanctions against him. He could be a mediator for future talks between Ukrainians and Russians. »

However, Serebrennikov did not in any way defend Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Russian culture has always promoted human values, human weakness, the compassion that a person can have in people’s souls, in small people. The culture has always been against war. Because it wants to destroy of war I am talking about.words culture and the word war are antagonists. »

At the press conference of Tchaikovsky’s wifethe Festival presented a film that it added to its programming at the last moment: Mariupolis 2 of Lithuanian documentarian Mantas Kvedaravicius, was killed less than two months ago by the Russian army, at the age of just 45.


The producer of Mariupolis 2 Nadia Turincev, co-director Hanna Bilobrova and editor Dounia Sichov

Kvedaravicius ’film, which depicts the daily life under the Mariupol bombs of the inhabitants of this besieged city, was finished by his Ukrainian companion Hanna Bilobrova and his editor Dounia Sichov . The filmmaker and anthropologist returned to Mariupol at the start of the invasion in February to find people who took part in his first documentary on the city, during the Donbass war, in 2014.

Kirill Serebrennikov, 52, is due to go to the Festival d’Avignon in July The black monk by Chekhov, before finishing the shooting of his next film, an adaptation of Emmanuel Carrère’s novel, Limonovabout a Russian character as charming as it is controversial.

“Without this war, we would all be better off, and me first, because we would all be freer,” he replied to a journalist of Ukrainian origin, who asked him if he was happy to finally meet the man in Cannes. Film Festival. The fact that there are bombs falling on cities makes me not entirely happy to be here. »

I turned on the TV in my hotel room on Thursday night, I came across a lengthy report by the ongoing Russian government-owned news channel Russia 24 on Tchaikovsky’s wife. There was talk about film reviews in American trade magazines different at HollywoodReporter, three experts were interviewed (I have nothing more to tell you; my Russian is a bit rusty), but no sound extract from Kirill Serebrennikov’s press conference was broadcast. Obviously.

I wonder what the reaction of the Russian authorities would be if the work of an exiled dissident won the Palme d’Or this year. And I dare not imagine the cry in Ukraine …

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