The Cannes Film Festival announced its lineup late last week, and said the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi — who is not allowed to leave Iran or to make movies — was a contender for the top prize, the Palme d’Or, with his new title, “Three Faces.”
Panahi will face strong competition from the likes of Spike Lee (with “BlackKkKlansman,” about an African-American who becomes an undercover member of the Ku Klux Klan), and the veteran Swiss-French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
Another Palme d’Or contender, “Girls in the Sun” by Eva Husson, stars the Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. Unlike Panahi, she is expected to appear on the red carpet for the movie’s gala screening.
The festival opens May 8 with a movie directed by another Iranian filmmaker: Oscar-winning Asghar Farhadi, who presents “Everybody Knows,” a Spanish-language thriller starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.
At a press conference in Paris late last week, the festival’s artistic director Thierry Frémaux described Panahi’s new movie as “a road movie in the Iran of today. One might even call it a feelgood road movie, coming from a man who doesn’t find himself in a very comfortable situation, yet still manages to do his work as an artist and a filmmaker.”
Frémaux said the Iranian authorities would soon be receiving “an invitation to authorize Jafar Panahi to leave Iranian territory so that he can present his work and return home.” He recalled that Panahi was the winner of the top Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 for his film “Taxi Tehran.”
Actress Farahani, meanwhile, plays the commander of a Kurdish battalion of women known as “The Girls of the Sun” who are determined to chase Islamic State extremists out of the town where she and her family were captured by them.
The film’s director, Husson, got the idea for the film when she heard about Kurdish women who were hostages of Islamic State but managed to escape and take up arms against the extremist group. The film was shot in Georgia and France.
The festival ends Saturday May 19 with a red-carpet awards ceremony at which Panahi could win one of a number of awards.