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French film directors' guild urges Europeans to vote

media French film director Céline Sciamma and Croatian film maker Hrvoke Hribar surrounded by some of the European directors in Cannes calling for a big turnout in European Elections from May 23 to 26, 2019 SRF

The Cannes Film Festival ends one day ahead of the European election ballot in France on Sunday 26 May. On Tuesday, a group of French film makers presented a statement signed by 500 European directors, including Stephen Frears and Alan Parker, encouraging voters to turn out.

Céline Sciamma, director of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a film in the Golden Palm competition and spokeswoman for the SRF's European vote-push warned: "Europe is in danger".

With the abstention rate forecast to be around 60 per cent, she said that for people who are discontent, it's time to vote for a better Europe, but not to end the European ideal.

“Our gesture stems from the fact that we are critical. We are often disappointed by the European plans that are a far cry from the initial project of Europe, which was a Europe that stands for culture, for social justice, an inclusive Europe, a Europe which would take everyone upwards," she said.

Speaking in front of the Malmaison on the Croisette, headquarters of the Directors' Fortnight during the Cannes Film Festival, Sciamma warned that a low turnout could mean a win for Eurosceptics.

"And they are often the extremes, the fascists. We feel that Europe is in danger. We have to mobilise to defend the project.”

In France, one of the most recent polls carried out for French news channel BFMTV, predicted that president Emmanuel Macron's LREM centrist party joint list with the liberals MoDem, coming in second to the far-right Rassemblement National, led by Marine Le Pen, at 23 percent and 23.5 percent respectively.

A European view

Meanwhile, vying for the Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival, Austrian film maker Jessica Hausner, Little Joe, also senses danger of a sort of mind-numbing creeping in.

Hausner sets her film in the UK, in a laboratory which develops new plant species. Her cast of European actors (Ben Whishaw, Phénix Brossard, Goran Kostic, Sebastian Hülk) gradually all become "infected" by the plant they name "Little Joe".

The red-fringed bloom of the plant gives off a fragrance that makes people happy, but it demands love and devotion in return.

Emily Beecham as Alice in Jessica Hausner's science "fiction" film, 'Little Joe', nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, May 2019 Jessica Hausner

The plant is named after the teenage son (Kit Connor) of the chief scientist (Emily Beecham) behind the genetic engineering.

Little Joe is extremely stylised in its presentation, including in the acting where an atmosphere of suspicion pervades the clean, bright, transparent laboratory, a family home and even a croft in the hills.

"It's about an existential question, happiness doesn't exist," said Hausner in her press conference in Cannes where she deflected a direct question about political inferences in Little Joe.

The film is definitely multi-layered and open to just as many interpretations


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