News / Arts & Entertainment

Chechnya Film Booed, Cheered at Cannes, Godard Back at 83

(L-R) Producer Thomas Langmann, cast member Berenice Bejo, director Michel Hazanavicius, cast members Abdul Khalim Mamutsiev, Zukhra Duishvili and Maxim Emelyanov pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of the film "The Search" in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 21, 2014.
(L-R) Producer Thomas Langmann, cast member Berenice Bejo, director Michel Hazanavicius, cast members Abdul Khalim Mamutsiev, Zukhra Duishvili and Maxim Emelyanov pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of the film "The Search" in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 21, 2014.
Reuters
— A powerful indictment of the 1999 Chechen war by The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius was booed and cheered at Cannes on Wednesday while France's Jean-Luc Godard ventured into 3D for his latest festival entry at the age of 83.
 
Hazanavicius's The Search and Godard's Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language) are two of the films by French directors competing in the world's largest cinema showcase for the prestigious Palme d'Or prize, to be awarded on Saturday.
 
Fans of The Artist, an uplifting Hollywood fairy tale, will be in for a visceral shock with Hazanavicius's latest.
 
“Welcome to this big shit-hole - Chechnya,” are the movie's opening words, uttered by a Russian soldier videotaping scenes of burnt-out buildings, dead livestock and, later, the murder of villagers in a war seen by some as Russia's Vietnam.
 
Chechnya fought a separatist war in 1994-96 briefly shaking off Russian rule, but lost the second in 1999-2000 when Russia's then-prime minister, Vladimir Putin, re-established control over the region.

Hazanavicius cuts between two story lines to portray the war and the lives torn apart by it. In the main one, 9-year-old Hadji  - played by Abdul-Khalim Mamatsuiev - flees his destroyed, abandoned village, his baby brother in tow, after his parents are killed by Russian soldiers.
 
He is discovered outside a refugee center by Carole (Berenice Bejo), a European Union human rights worker documenting abuses and struggling to galvanize public outrage to spur a strong response to the war from the West.
 
In the second strand, 19-year-old Kolia (Maxim Emelianov) is arrested for smoking pot and forced into the Russian army. He is seen going through a stomach-turning training process designed to prepare him psychologically to see Chechens as “terrorists”.
 
When he reaches the front, he loses no time in killing his first two “terrorists” - an old man and a boy.
 
“I think everyone knows the Russian army massacred hordes of people in Chechnya. It's a historical fact,” Hazanavicius told journalists and critics at a press conference.
 
“The film is a political one but I've tried to ensure it doesn't take sides, ultimately,” said the director, adding that his interest was in showing “human beings subjected to war”.
 
“I've tried to focus on the human angle because that's what interests me.”
 
While the movie finds its emotional center in Hadji, the screenplay stumbles with its heavy-handed reproach of the West's hands-off approach to the war, expressed by Carole in lines such as: “I'm sick of your indifference while people are dying.”
 
“Bejo's considerable talent is squandered by treacly dialog,” IndieWire wrote. The Guardian cited “sincerity and commitment, and an earnest rejection of the horror of war” but criticized “sentimentality is at its core”.
 
A man, a woman, a dog
 
Returning to Cannes is the acclaimed pioneer of the French New Wave, Godard, who has made almost 40 films. The enigmatic synopsis of his 3D film, due to screen for journalists later on Wednesday, involved a married woman and a single man and a dog that weaves in and out of their lives.
 
(L-R) Cast members Christian Gregori, Jessica Erickson, Richard Chevallier, Heloise Godet, Zoe Bruneau and Kamel Abdelli pose during a photocall for the film "Adieu au langage" (Goodbye to Language) in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 21, 2014.
(L-R) Cast members Christian Gregori, Jessica Erickson, Richard Chevallier, Heloise Godet, Zoe Bruneau and Kamel Abdelli pose during a photocall for the film "Adieu au langage" (Goodbye to Language) in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 21, 2014.

Godard's Breathless broke with the established conventions of French cinema in 1960 and helped kickstart a new way of filmmaking, complete with handheld camera work, jump cuts and existential dialog.
 
The director participated in one of Cannes's most dramatic moments during the 1968 citizen uprisings throughout France. A sit-in at the main theater building by protesters including fellow directors Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut resulted in the festival being canceled.
 
While the festival, now in its 67th year, seeks to give a voice to directors old and new, some critics, including Scotland's Richard Mowe, feel there hasn't been enough variety.
 
“There are far too many familiar names who seem to be in there for no good reason than they are familiar names and have been to the festival many times before, not necessarily on merit,” Mowe, a juror for Director's Week, told Reuters.
 
“Thank God for the other sections in the festival which do get new blood.”

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."