Cannes 2019: Festival fires opening warning to ‘ignorant’ world leaders

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment reporter at the Cannes Film Festival

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Alejandro González Iñárritu and jury member Elle Fanning took part in the opening ceremony

The Cannes Film Festival has got off to a hard-hitting start with its jury president accusing world leaders of ruling with "rage and anger and lies".

Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu said prevailing rhetoric around immigration - including the notion of a US-Mexico border wall - could lead to another world war.

"The problem is what is happening is ignorance," he added.

He spoke ahead of the opening premiere of Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die.

"I'm absolutely against what is happening all around and expect there will be something that will stop this dangerous thing that can return to us to 1939. We know how this story ends if we keep with that rhetoric," said the Birdman, Babel and Revenant director.

Referring to climate change he said: "The world is melting and these guys are basically ruling with rage and anger and lies and they are basically writing fiction and making people believe those are real thing and facts."

The 55-year-old, who was joined on the jury press conference panel by judges including Babel actor Elle Fanning and Oscar-nominated director Yorgos Lanthimos, added: "I'm not a politician but as an artist I can express through my job with a heart open what I think and be truthful to what I leave through the work that I did."

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The Dead Don’t Die star Bill Murray and director Jim Jarmusch attended the opening screening

Earth off its axis

A few hours later, the festival's opening film - Jarmusch's dark zombie comedy - provided a slightly more satirical swipe on the leading world authorities, regarding current climate change and immigration policies.

The film, starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton, concerns a zombie apocalypse brought about by "polar fracking" that sends the Earth off its axis.

"Maybe it'll all just go away like a bad dream," declares Murray.

"I doubt it," replies Driver, "This is all gonna end badly".

The topical movie comes just weeks after the Extinction Rebellion protests brought parts of London to a standstill.

The Dead Don't Die, which also features Selena Gomez, Chloe Sevigny and a brilliant cameo by the undead coffee-addicted Iggy Pop, earlier saw Steve Buscemi lampoon US President Donald Trump's signature Make America Great Again cap.

His character donned a similar one bearing the slogan 'Keep America White Again'.

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Chloe Sevigny and Selena Gomez walked up the famous red steps

There were fits of laughter across the press screening throughout, though, and none more so than when Murray appeared to briefly nod off during a meandering pre-screening speech by French comedian Edouard Baer.

The opening ceremony was simultaneously beamed into 600 cinemas across France.

Stars of The Dead Don't Die headed off into the lively Cannes night, but are set to appear before the press again to answer questions on Wednesday morning.

'Art not fame'

The film festival is expected to get even more political as the week goes on, thanks to new works by socially-conscious Cannes veterans Ken Loach and Terrence Malick, as well as the first ever competition-listed film by a black woman - in the form of Mati Diop's Atlantics.

When Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at the festival next week for the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he'll also be promoting Ice on Fire; a climate change documentary, produced and narrated by the actor.

Iñárritu and the eight-strong panel will watch and then discuss the merits of all 21 films in competition over the next fortnight.

The winner will be awarded the esteemed Palme d'Or prize at the festival finale and the boss declared on Tuesday that the panel would make a decision based on "the art" and not "the name or fame" of each director's offering.

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