Despite the Ukraine crisis, big festivities await celebrities at Cannes this year

CANNES, France: The Cannes Film Festival is gearing up for an exceptional 75th anniversary edition with a line-up of Hollywood big names, hot newcomers and former Palme d’Or winners – a resounding return even as conflict in Ukraine hangs over the festivities.

“Honestly, I think it’s been some of Cannes’ best programming in years,” said Scott Roxborough, European bureau chief for The Hollywood Reporter.

The festival runs from May 17-28, resuming its traditional schedule after two years of pandemic disruption. It was canceled in 2020 and last year moved to July, when it took place under strict COVID protocols.

This year the parties are back and Hollywood heavy hitters will include Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun Maverick’ – bringing the star to Cannes for the first time in three decades – as well as Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks.

Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun Maverick’ will premiere in Cannes before hitting theaters on May 27

“It’s a tradition to have our American friends. Let’s not forget that the Cannes Film Festival, in 1939 and in 1946, was practically co-constructed, co-invented by France and Hollywood”, declared the director of the Thierry Fremaux festival during a press conference.

Actor Forest Whitaker will be on hand to receive the festival’s honorary Palme d’or for lifetime achievement.

Actor Forest Whitaker, who will receive the festival’s honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Pictures: Facebook

Asia will have a strong presence, despite China’s absence, with films by Park Chan-wook and Hirokazu Kore-eda in competition and “Squid Game” actor Lee Jung-jae premiering his new movie ” Hunter”.

“Everyone kind of wants to come back for this moment, kind of a cinematic revival here in Cannes,” Roxborough said. The festival opens on Tuesday with a zombie film, ‘Final cut,’ by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, which changed the title from ‘Z, comme Z’ to remove a reference to the letter that has become associated with the war in Ukraine.

The festival has banned official Russian delegations from attending the event, but will screen “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” by exiled Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who has been outspoken about the war.

Also screening is “Mariupolis 2” by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, 45, who was killed in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city heavily shelled by Russian forces, nearly a month ago while working on the film. His fiancée Hanna Bilobrova, who completed the project, will present it.

Another Ukrainian entry is a directorial debut by Maksim Nakonechnyi, “Butterfly Vision,” the story of a young Ukrainian girl who returns to her country after being captured and then released in a prisoner exchange.

“We will think a lot about cinema, but we will never stop thinking about what is happening in Ukraine too,” said Fremaux, peppered with questions about the festival’s position on the war.

Christi C. Elwood