Ukraine film-makers horrified by Top Gun jet display at Cannes

The 75th edition of the festival has given a platform to Ukrainian films this year, banned official Russian delegations and featured a video message from President Volodymyr Zelensky at its opening ceremony.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses guests during the Opening Ceremony of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on 17 May 2022. Picture: Christophe Simon / AFP.

CANNES - Ukrainians at the Cannes Film Festival said Thursday that all Russians should have been banned from the event and expressed horror at the fighter jet display used to promote "Top Gun: Maverick".

The 75th edition of the festival has given a platform to Ukrainian films this year, banned official Russian delegations and featured a video message from President Volodymyr Zelensky at its opening ceremony.

There was an emotional screening of "Mariupolis 2" on Thursday, the final film by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius who was killed while filming in Ukraine last month -- reportedly by Russian forces.

The stark documentary shows desperate residents trying to survive among the ruins of Mariupol following the invasion.

But such serious fare can sometimes sit awkwardly with the more spectacular Hollywood displays that light up the red carpet in Cannes.

The team who completed "Mariupolis 2" said they were shocked by the French Air Force display team that had screeched across the sky the previous evening as part of celebrations for the new Tom Cruise blockbuster.

"I was with a friend from Mariupol, a producer. She's been experiencing the war for eight years," said Hanna Bilobrova, the girlfriend of Kvedaravicius, who was with him in the eastern Ukraine city up to his death.

"We were on the balcony and heard jets flying and we almost lay down. Bombs didn't follow. (My friend) began to cry. (She) was very ashamed about her reaction and I said there's nothing to be ashamed about. We're still alive."

'MUST BE CANCELLED'

Meanwhile, a panel of Ukrainian film professionals were critical of the festival's decision to include exiled Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov in the competition for the Palme d'Or with his film "Tchaikovsky's Wife".

"We feel strongly that anything and everything Russian must be cancelled," said Andrew Fesiak, founder of Ukrainian production firm F Films.

"At a time when Ukrainian film-makers are forced to stop making movies because they either need to flee for their lives or take up arms... Russian film-makers cannot pretend that everything is fine and that they are not to blame."

Serebrennikov responded to the criticism, telling AFP that he understood the position of Ukrainians.

"They are in a terrible situation, this war is a catastrophe... For them it's even difficult to hear the Russian language. I can understand that," Serebrennikov said.

"But for European culture to cut off Russian culture would be a big mistake and I'm happy the festival chose the right way -- not to work with officials but not to ban an independent Russian film with a sad story from the 19th century," he added.

The director has been in exile since the invasion and called for an end to the war at his film's premiere on Wednesday.

But another member of the Ukrainian panel, Andriy Khalpakhchi of the Kyiv International Film Festival, said there was no such thing as "good Russians" at the current time.

"I know a few good Russians but most good Russians ended with Crimea," Khalpakhchi said, referring to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014.