The Cannes Film Festival has opened with the premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie The Dead Don’t Die.
It is the first time a zombie flick has opened the festival on the French Riviera. The film, starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton, opened the 72nd edition of the festival with a bloody and droll apocalyptic tale inspired by George Romero.
The opening ceremony began with a chair marked Agnes V to commemorate the French New Wave pioneer, who died in March aged 90, and a performance of Without You, from Varda’s landmark 1962 film Cleo From 5 to 7, by the Belgian singer Angele.
Alejandro Inarritu, the Mexican-born filmmaker of Birdman and The Revenant, is the first Latin American to preside over the jury that decides Cannes’ top honour, the Palme d’Or.
Addressing reporters earlier in the day alongside fellow jury members, Inarritu drew a parallel between the rhetoric of US President Donald Trump to that of the 1930s.
He said: “We know how this story ends if we keep with that rhetoric.
“We think we are evolving with the technology and social media. It seems every tweet is a brick of isolation attached to ideological things and is creating a lot of isolation and paranoia.”
This year’s Cannes arrives with the usual swirl of celebrity and controversy. Among the starrier films debuting at the festival on the French Riviera will be Quentin Tarantino’s 1969 Los Angeles tale Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and the Elton John biopic Rocketman.
Also on tap are the latest from renowned auteurs Pedro Almodovar, Terrence Malick and the Dardennes brothers. Also of interest will be the debut from Mati Diop, Atlantique, which marks the first black woman filmmaker in competition in Cannes.
Last year’s Cannes saw 82 women, which represented the number of women directors to ever appear in competition in Cannes, protest for gender inequality on the festival’s famed red carpet steps.
Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux signed a pledge promising to make the festival’s selection process more transparent and to push executive boards towards gender parity.
This year, there are four women in Cannes’ 21-film main slate, tying the festival’s previous high in 2011. For the first time, Cannes has revealed gender-based statistics on its submissions and selections, a measure of transparency that had been requested by 50/50X2020, the French sister group of Time’s Up.
Fremaux defended the festival’s record, bristling at critics who have said Cannes is not progressing quickly enough.
“I’m looking forward to time when we come and we don’t have to say ‘the women directors’ and ‘as a woman,’” said jury member Kelly Riechart, the Wendy and Lucy filmmaker.
“People keep asking us what’s it like being a woman director,” said Italian filmmaker and Cannes regular Alice Rohrwacher, also a jury member. “It’s a bit like asking someone who’s survived a shipwreck why they’re still alive. Well, ask the person who built the boat.”
Also on the jury are The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos, Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War), French director Enki Bilal, Senegalese actress-director Maimouna N’Diaye, French filmmaker Robin Campillo and actress Elle Fanning.
At 21, Fanning is the youngest juror ever in Cannes.
“I definitely am young but I started acting very young, as well,” said Fanning, whose first movie role came at the age of four.