Decency is a valuable asset in the public image of a film festival. Generous gestures can distract attention from neglect in other areas. A sense of social responsibility should not only be promised in the cinema, but should be reflected in all facets of festival operations. And this year, a drastic measure by the organizers can actually be observed in every queue: For the first time, Cannes did not produce a bag for festival visitors.
From an ecological point of view, the decision is a welcome one (even the press compartments, which regularly overflowed with paper after only two days, have since been abolished) – but in terms of fashion it is a bitter disappointment. In Cannes, they were also way ahead of the competition when it came to bag design: chic, practical and therefore the perfect festival souvenir. As a result, this year’s “Festival Looks” of the season – matching the film selection – offer more variety than before.
Many guests also simply carry on the “It Bags” of the previous year; this is how sustainability works. However, this is detrimental to the festival’s corporate identity.
Speaking of public image: the official festival sponsor TikTok caused resentment at the weekend with its short film competition. The news of the partnership with the Chinese moving image app has already been received with a frown in the cinema industry.
But then Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh resigned as jury president after TikTok allegedly made too many “suggestions” to the awards committee. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise given the state-owned company of an unjust regime. In a year in which everyone is expressing solidarity with Ukraine, this short-sightedness is particularly irritating.
When it comes to their own credibility, film festivals are advised to concentrate on their core competencies anyway. Turkish cinema has recently become rare on the Croisette, and from Erdogan’s empire you almost only get the bad news from cultural life.
Director Emin Alper opens the screening of his film “Burning Days” (in the Un Certain Regard series) with one of these on Monday. Its producer, Çigdem Mater, will not be able to come to Cannes this year (and feared not for very long) as she was sentenced to 18 years in prison along with Osman Kavala and six other defendants at the end of April. It is yet another painful reminder that Ukraine is not the only political trouble spot in Europe at the moment.
In terms of atmosphere, “Burning Days” follows Alper’s second film “Abluka” seamlessly. Young – and outrageously handsome – prosecutor Emre (Selahattin Pasali) starts his new job in a small town suffering from water shortages. The “Chinatown” motif already hints that Alper is inspired by film noir; and of the corruption of a state capitalism whose influence reaches into the provinces. But then Emre imagines the journalist – and local opposition leader – Murat (Ekin Koç), who stares defiantly at the lawyer’s bare bottom at the bathing lake.
Alper’s Cannes debut deserved a place in the competition. It is true that the political intrigue in which Emre is involved is rather under-complex. But his portrait of a society in which no one trusts anyone, in which elections are bought by village populists with simple promises and homophobia is openly staged, is bravura for the genre.
Above all, however, the film thrives on its main actor, Selahattin Pasali, whose flawless softness can turn into a finely modeled hardness at any time. Turkey could use more of such men.