Ukrainian Filmmakers Protest Russian “Genocide” at Cannes Premiere

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Another Cannes premiere has been marked by a political protest. On Wednesday, a group of Ukrainian filmmakers took to the red carpet steps in front of the Salle Debussy, Cannes’ second-largest theater, and held up a banner protesting what they see as social media’s censoring of the Ukraine war.

Standing on the steps as air-raid sirens wailed — a nod toward the alarms that tear through the Ukraine sky when a Russian attack is imminent — Maksym Nakonechnyi, director of Cannes Un Certain Regard title Butterfly Vision, the film’s producers Darya Bassel and Yelizaveta Smit, lead actress Rita Burkovska and several members of the production team held up a banner.

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“Russians kill Ukrainians. Do you find it offensive or disturbing to talk about this genocide?” it read.

The protestors were demonstrating against what they see as a dangerous form of censorship by social media platforms, which, in their opinion, are hiding the uncomfortable and disturbing reality of the war.

Nakonechnyi’s Butterfly Vision looks straight at that reality. The film, set before the current conflict, follows a female soldier (Burkovska) who returns home to her family after spending months as a prisoner of Russian forces in Donbas, the eastern Ukrainian region that has been partially occupied by Russia since 2014. She struggles to return to a normal life, haunted by the trauma she has experienced.

This wasn’t the first protest to hit the Cannes Film Festival this year. On May 20, ahead of the world premiere screening of George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing, a woman walking the red carpet stripped nearly naked, showing off body paint in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, with the words “stop raping us” written in paint across her abdomen.

Just two days later, at the premiere screening for Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider, a group of women from the feminist movement Les Colleuses, dressed in all black and unleashing smoke from handheld devices held in their upraised arms, unfurled a banner listing the names of 129 women believed to be victims of domestic violence in France since the last Cannes Film Festival took place.

The demonstration against femicide was tied to the theme of Holy Spider, which is the story of an Iranian serial killer who murders prostitutes to “cleanse” his city of “evil women.”

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