Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Cannes 2007: The Newsmakers

Often, the Cannes Film Festival sparkles not so much for its cinema as it does for its newsmakers. Three years ago in 2004, when Bush basher and documaker Michael Moore came to the French Riviera with his “Fahrenheit 9/11”, he caused enough fire and heat to make the American President uneasy across the Atlantic. When the jury crowned Moore with the Golden Palm, it seemed like the French were gleefully agreeing with the helmer’s view of all that was wrong with America’s First Man.

Michael Moore
Mr Moore is not one to rest on his laurels, and three years is long enough for him to have digested (and burped) Cannes’ glorious Palm. This year, the man is back with his latest attack on Bush’s land. Called “Sicko”, Moore’s documentary is a powerful indictment of the U.S. healthcare system, revealing how it helps a few rich at the expense of many, many. The movie pans from humour to sorrow to outright anger as it compares the medical care in America with that in other countries.

At the May 19 Press meet at Cannes, Moore urged for “action”, and said that the Bush Government’s attempt at charging him with an illegal trip to Cuba was a pathetic ploy to divert and distract people’s attention from a real and pressing issue. Employing his standard narrative style of poor David being crushed by the mighty Goliath, Moore also blamed American insurance and pharmaceutical companies of being hand in glove with the Bush administration. “What has happened to us as a people”, he asked. “Where is our soul?”

One criticism against “Sicko” is that it paints a very rosy picture of the healthcare in countries such as Canada, Britain, France and Cuba, models that the director uses to compare the U.S. system. That may be, but Moore’s work cannot be either underestimated or ignored. However, I sometimes wish that the gentleman would let his work do the talking rather than he himself.


The Dubai International Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival have brought their fight to the French Riviera. Abu Dhabi officials, including royal family member Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, are at Cannes to announce the creation of a new festival that will run in the second half of October. This is being planned to rival the Dubai Festival, which opened in December 2004. Said to be far richer than Dubai, Abu Dhabi with its enormous natural wealth is all set to eclipse the older festival. And, sadly Dubai has run into problems with its Director, Neil Stephenson, being “sacked”. He has vowed the take the Festival authorities to court. Will Dubai sink, and Abu Dhabi rise?

That great French actress, Juliette Binoche, will now illuminate Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami’ next work, “The Certified Copy”. Lensing will begin this October on a script written by Kiarostami himself, and the story is about an art gallery owner (Binoche) who enjoys a brief encounter with a middleaged English writer at an art conference. The picture is set near Florence in Italy.

(Webposted May 20 2007)