TILDA Swinton said she didn’t go to the Cannes Film Festival “for the prizes” yesterday after the screening of her new film was booed.
Swinton stars as the chief executive of a family-run genetic engineering firm in Okja, a creature feature by Korea’s Bong Joon-ho which tells the story of a girl and her giant pig.
Made by TV streaming giant Netflix, it marks the company’s first ever film at the movie festival.
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However, the audience booed the firm’s logo at the start of the screening yesterday, with jeers breaking out again after technical problems saw the feature shown in the wrong aspect ratio.
Swinton’s head was left off-screen during the six minute bungle at the Grand Lumiere theatre.
Video clips posted online show members of the audience booing, whistling and shouting.
In a statement posted on its official Twitter account, the festival apologised, saying: “A technical incident disrupted the beginning of the screening of Bong Joon-ho’s film, Okja, which was shown this morning at a press screening at the Lumiere Auditorium.
“The session was interrupted for a few minutes but was then able to carry on as normal. This incident was entirely the responsibility of the Festival’s technical service which offers its apologies to the director, his teams, the producers and the audience at the showing.”
The incident follows controversy over Okja’s place at the cinema celebration.
Although has two films competing for the coveted Palme d’Or award for best film — Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories — the head of the jury, director Pedro Almodovar, said he could not imagine the gong going to a picture not shown in cinemas.
A new rule introduced for next year requires films to have had theatrical distribution in French cinemas.
The Spanish filmmaker said: “The size of the screen should not be smaller than the chair you’re sitting in. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must be small and humble in front of the image that’s here.”
However, jury member Will Smith praised the service, saying: “I have a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home. They go to the movies twice a week, and they watch Netflix.
“In my home, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit. [They] watch films they otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It has broadened my children’s global cinematic comprehension.”
Responding to Almodovar’s comments yesterday, Swinton said: “It’s really important that the president feels free to make whatever statement he or she wants to make but the truth is we didn’t actually come here for prizes, we came here to show this film, and it is true that we get the wonderful privilege to show this film on this screen.
“I think it’s an enormous and really interesting conversation that’s just beginning. But what I really think is that there is room for everyone.”
Swinton, who lives in Nairn, plays twin sisters in the film, basing the character of Lucy on Ivanka Trump, amongst others.
Discussing the role, she said: “She needed to be a construct, very painstakingly planned to be everything that, particularly, dominant American culture loves to be ruled by — flaxen, straight-haired, straight-toothed, vivacious, childlike in energy.”
Castmates include Jake Gyllenhaal as a TV host, Paul Dano as an animal rights activist and An Seo Hyun as Mija, the girl whose love for her giant pig takes her around the world from her rural home to New York.
As big as a hippo, the animal is genetically modified for a larger meat yield, but Mija aims to save her pet.
The Palme d’Or jury will meet to select its winner next weekend, choosing from a field of 19.
Other contenders include You Were Never Really Here, by Scots director Lynne Ramsay.
Backed by National Lottery funding through the BFI Film Fund, the movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as a former soldier who tries to rescue a young girl from a sex trafficking ring.
The award nod comes six years after Ramsay’s last feature film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, was in the running for the prize — a movie which also starred Swinton as travel writer Eva Khatchadourian whose son’s aberrant behaviour culminates in extreme violence.
Commenting on the director’s latest work, Lizzie Francke of the BFI Film Fund said: “Lynne Ramsay is an artist at the height of her powers. You Were Never Really Here is an extraordinary, beautiful and poignant work of cinema.
“We are totally delighted for her and the team behind it that Cannes Film Festival has embraced the film so.”
Other films set to screen over the festival include documentary XY Chelsea, which follows former ex-US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning as she begins her life outside prison.
Nicole Kidman has four projects on the bill, including The Beguiled, which also stars Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell.
She also stars in the second season of TV crime series Top Of The Lake, which will be screened in full before the festival closes on May 28.