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Emotions run high at Copie Conforme press conference

Abbas Kiarostami, 1997 Palme d'Or winner, returned to Cannes presenting his In Competition film, Copie Conforme. Tuesday morning's press conference, however, veered toward a heavier subject as Kiarostami called for the release of fellow Iranian filmmaker, Jafar Panahi, who has been imprisoned in a Tehran jail since March 1. Kiarostami hoped to draw attention to the struggle filmmakers face in his native country who are persecuted for having creative ideas, for films that haven't even been completed. In Iran, authorities have the right to imprison filmmakers if they do not approve of the film's premise. "When an artist is imprisoned, it is art as a whole which is attacked," Kiarostami said.

The conference became emotional when a woman from the crowd began to cry, telling her own personal experience with the oppressive Iranian regime preventing artists from expressing themselves. Juliette Binoche teared up at the woman's heartfelt testament, and the entire panel was visibly moved as well. 

 

The mood took a lighter turn as the panel began taking questions pertaining to the film. Kiarostami was asked how significantly the language barrier between the two protagonists had an effect on their problems as a couple. Actor William Shemell described his past relationship with a French girl. "We had fun trying to understand eachother," he said. "But once she understood me, she left me." The crowd laughed. Kiarostami added good-naturedly: "I've never had a girlfriend who spoke French, Italian or English. And that is why I don't speak any of those languages!"

In response to whether or not Shimell's character is modeled after Kiarostami himself, Kiarostami explained that he incorporates himself into all of his films, and all of his characters as well. "I am William's character, but I am also Juliette's. I'm also the woman who runs the café. They're all a part of me, and that is part of my relationship with cinema."

Kiarostami attested that his film does not have a concrete message. "What is important is the way you look at things. It's not up to me to deduce a message for you," he said. "Its about the value of what you're looking at; a work of art, a human being, or who you love."

 

The film is set in Italy and tells the story of a French woman and an English man, overlapping three different cultures and three different languages. Binoche commented, "There should be more interaction like this between countries, and I think Abbas [Kiarostami] is a symbol of that. The festival represents that as well, this huge aim to overcome cultural boundaries."

From tears to laughter to feelings of cultural unity, the Copie Conforme press conference had emotions running high, and certainly reminded all of us that artistic freedom doesn't always come without price.

Lauren Ellison 

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