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Cannes film festival round-up Reality bites in gritty dramas from the US to Kurdistan

THE STORMY weather in Cannes matched the mood of a number of entries, with Iranian director Jarar Panahi again banned from attending the festival by the Tehran government.

Despite living under house arrest and being forbidden from making films for 20 years following accusations of producing “propaganda,” he has continued to do so and his latest, Three Faces, is a fictional commentary on life in Iran and the country’s cinema legacy, infused with sly humour.

A more forthright political statement came from veteran director Spike Lee. BlacKKKlansman is inspired by the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer who managed to successfully infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and become the head of a local chapter.

Hugely entertaining, poignant and thoughtful, it turns a familiar genre, the undercover cop drama, into something way out of the ordinary. A fiercely defiant denunciation of Trumpism, it traces a line from the Confederacy through the Jim Crow era to the recent neonazi demonstrations in Charlottesville.

The simple life of poor farmers is at the centre of Italian director Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro, the story of a young peasant enlisted by a nobleman friend to help orchestrate his own kidnapping.

This strange alliance is the vehicle for the condemnation of the centuries-old exploitation of the poorest by the wealthy. Yet Rohrwacher's film has a light touch, though with moments of heartbreak.

Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun (pictured) is a fact-based drama centred on a group of Iraqi and Syrian women who escape kidnapping at the hands of jihadist fighters. It's set in Kurdistan where Mathilde, a veteran war reporter, meets Bahar who leads the local women’s attempt to fend off the enemy and reclaim their village.

The latter's tough exterior belies her personal stake in the mission — she's hoping against hope that her kidnapped son will still be alive behind enemy lines.

It's an inspiring and important feminist tale in which women literally fight abuse and the film was the trigger for the most emotional moment at this year’s festival, when more than 80 women from the film industry staged a diversity protest prior to the screening.

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