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Protests over screening of France-Algeria war film at Cannes

Cannes: Palace, the main venue here was turned into a fortress as hundred of people turned up to protests against the screening of Rachid Bouchareb`s film `Outside The Law`, dealing with Algeria`s struggle for independence from France.

The security was beefed-up at the festival yesterday for the first screening of the film as protesters, called by right wing National Front party, demanded that the film be removed from the competition.

The party and other political organisations are peeved with the inclusion of the movie in the festival line-up. They are calling it an inaccurate version of the 1945 Algerian revolt against France.

Incidentally, the film, which is an Algerian entry, is a strong contender for the Cannes` top prize --Palme d`Or tomorrow.

Paris is angry with the way the director has scripted and shot the French Government`s handling of an Algerian uprising a day after World War II ended that led to the
massacre of thousands of people. Algeria was a French colony then.

Franco-Algerian ties have always been touchy, and cinema seems to have increased the friction.

Bouchareb`s film is a provocative story of the brutality of the occupying French forces in Algeria and how the troops mercilessly fired on innocent men, women and children, killing several thousand people.

Bouchareb, a French-Algerian director, said he was dismayed by what he saw as an ill-informed fuss.

"I`m surprised because this film is meant to open a calm debate, not a battleground. We need to lance the abscess, we need to have a calm debate about what happened so that we
can move on to something else," he said.

This has not been a great year for cinema at Cannes, especially when you compare it with last year`s admittedly; this has not been a great year for cinema at Cannes, particularly when you compare it with last year`s masterful selection.

However, of the few that have made an impression are Mike Leigh`s `Another Year`, which seems like a winner, and certainly one of his best in recent years, and not as bleak as his `Naked` or `All or Nothing`. The film traces loneliness, but narrates the story with less pain. There is a lot of wit and humour.

Xavier Beauvois` Competition entry, `Of Gods and Men`, which elaborates the 1996 massacre of French monks in Algeria, is another compelling piece of work that deals with the tacky subject of France`s colonial past.

Far away from Leigh`s England and the despairing solitude or grimness of Algeria, is `Poetry`, set in South Korea. It talks about the angst of an old woman whose grandson
rapes his school mate.

Marvellously told and engagingly shot, Lee Chang-Dong`s `Poetry` is truly poetic, and may walk away with a prize or two. Yung Junghee, essaying the grandmother with
remarkable restraint and dignity, could be in the running for the Best Actress trophy.

Javier Bardem, who was that suave but callous painter in Woody Allen`s `Vicky Christina Barcelona`, portrays the pain and pathos of a cancer-stricken man in Alejandro Gonzalez
Inarritu`s `Biutiful` (Mexico). Bardem is a strong contender for the best actor award.

PTI

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