The 2 Directors Missing From Cannes NPR's Scott Simon muses about how the glamour of this year's red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival masks the struggles of two directors who have been prevented by their home countries from attending.
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The 2 Directors Missing From Cannes

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The 2 Directors Missing From Cannes

The 2 Directors Missing From Cannes

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Cannes Film Festival has opened with sizzle and glitz. But when you see photos snapped along the red carpet, you might want to think of two directors whose films have been nominated for the Palme d'Or award but are a long ways away from that glamour. Kirill S. Serebrennikov, a Russian director, is under arrest in his apartment in Moscow. Jafar Panahi is prohibited from leaving Iran to come to Cannes.

Mr. Serebrennikov has directed a film called "Summer." It's a story of a love triangle between a girl, a boy and a rock star in the Leningrad of the 1980s, where Russian bands performed Soviet-sanitized covers of Dylan, Beatles, The Clash and Velvet Underground songs, which, of course, just made the kids in the clubs eager for the original English lyrics. He was shooting the movie last summer in St. Petersburg when he was arrested, driven to Moscow overnight and confined to his apartment on charges he'd stolen $2.3 million from the Gogol Center, an avant-garde theater and arts complex in Moscow. Many find those charges dubious. His production team finished the film based on the director's notes and rehearsals. And Kirill Serebrennikov edited it under house arrest on his computer and sent the film to France. It may never be seen in Russia.

Jafar Panahi has actually been banned from making films since he was arrested in 2010 for trying to shoot a film about Iran's disputed 2009 elections. But he's managed to keep making movies by shooting in apartments, alleys and taxicabs. In fact, his film "Taxi" won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear award in 2015, with Mr. Panahi revealing the heart of his city by playing a cab driver who picks up a range of loquacious and interesting passengers. His new film "Three Faces" is about an Iranian actress who receives a cry for help on video from a young girl who has to escape her family. Much of this film, too, is shot in automobiles.

Iranian artists have to keep moving as they work to evade detection by the authorities. Iran and Russia have both had a flowering of film talent in recent years in defiance of autocratic regimes. The battle to elude censorship often forces directors to concoct clever, camouflaged ways to tell stories about their society. That's what artists have been doing for centuries. A regime can lock them up, but it can't keep them from dreaming. Artists will find ways to tell and share their stories.

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