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Meryl Streep honoured at opening of drama-filled Cannes film festival

Meryl Streep honoured at opening of drama-filled Cannes film festival

Streep is among a host of Hollywood A-listers who flocked to the Cote d’Azur for the festival.
Updated 15 May, 2024

Meryl Streep was guest of honour at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, unfolding this year against the background of a director’s daring escape from Iran and mounting #MeToo pressure on the French industry.

Streep is among a host of Hollywood A-listers who flocked to the Cote d’Azur for the festival that runs to May 25, including legendary directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.

“I’m just so grateful that you haven’t gotten sick of my face,” Streep, 74, joked to the audience as she received her honorary Palme d’Or from French actor Juliette Binoche.

Coppola’s decades-in-the-making epic Megalopolis, an ancient Rome-inspired saga set in a corrupt modern-day city, is the most anticipated of 22 entries for the top prize Palme d’Or, facing a jury led by Barbie director Greta Gerwig.

“This is holy to me. Films are sacred and I cannot believe that I’m getting the opportunity to spend the next 10 days in this house of worship,” an emotional Gerwig told the audience.

Other entries include recent Oscar-winner Emma Stone reuniting with Yorgos Lanthimos for Kinds of Kindness, Demi Moore trying her hand at horror in The Substance, and Richard Gere in Paul Schrader’s Oh Canada.

Outside the race for the Palme d’Or, George Miller’s latest Mad Max instalment, Furiosa, will get its world premiere on Wednesday, meanwhile, Kevin Costner returns to the Western genre with Horizon: an American Saga.

Escape from Iran

As the festival opened, Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof announced he had escaped in secret from his country, just days after being sentenced to eight years in prison on security offences.

Rasoulof had been under pressure from Iranian authorities to withdraw his film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, from the Cannes competition. He urged the world film community to support his colleagues back home. “My thoughts go to every single one of them and I fear for their safety and well-being,” Rasoulof said.

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux said the festival was working with the French foreign ministry in the hopes that Rasoulof could attend his premiere next week.

‘Systemic’ sexism

Binoche presented the award to Streep with a tearful speech, telling her she had “changed the way we look at women”. Streep has only been to Cannes once before in 1989, when she won best actress for A Cry in the Dark.

“Thirty-five years ago when I was here last time, I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over. And that was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time,” she said.

With France’s film industry in the midst of a renewed #MeToo reckoning, Binoche was among 100 stars calling for a comprehensive new law to crack down on “systemic” sexism and gender-based violence.

The host of the opening ceremony, Camille Cottin, star of the hit series Call My Agent and an outspoken feminist, also took digs at the “biggest bad guy of all time: the patriarchy”. “The late-night work meetings in hotel rooms of all-powerful gentlemen are no longer part of the Cannes vortex,” she said.

Originally published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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Taj Ahmad May 15, 2024 03:01pm
Simply great and beautiful.
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