There was an empty chair in Cannes on Thursday for a Russian film director under house arrest back home for a fraud case his producer called “ridiculous”.
“Leto” (“Summer”), a biopic about the early days of a Russian rockstar in the Soviet era, is the first of two films in the festival’s main competition to screen without their director.
Kirill Serebrennikov was arrested during the shoot and had to complete editing the film at home, alone, without being able to communicate with his cast and crew.
While the Iranian Jafar Panahi, whose movie “3 Faces” will screen on Saturday, is officially banned from making films or leaving the country, Russian authorities say Serebrennikov’s fraud case has nothing to do with censorship.
“We received an answer from Mr Putin yesterday (to a request to allow Serebrennikov to travel) who told the Cannes Film Festival and the French government that he would have been pleased to help … but in Russia justice is independent,” said Joel Chapron, who was chairing the news conference for the festival.
“Leto” portrays the rock scene of early 1980s St. Petersburg where musicians have to submit lyrics for official approval and audiences at the city’s one rock venue are policed to ensure they stay seated and do not show too much enthusiasm.
Established frontman Mike takes a younger singer-songwriter, Viktor, under his wing, setting up a love triangle with Mike’s wife Natasha.
Western audiences may be unaware that this is based on a true story and that Viktor Tsoi went on to become one of the most successful and influential rock musicians in Russia before his death in a car crash in 1990, aged 28.