Palme d’Or Winning ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ Director Justine Triet Sparks Uproar in France with Fiery Political Speech

The Cannes Film Festival managed to avoid pensions reform’s protests and a power cut during its entire duration, but Palme d’Or winning director Justine Triet made up for both with a fiery political speech that took aim at the French government. Her impassioned plea became instantly viral and has been dominating headlines in French media.

After being introduced on stage by Jane Fonda and thanking her partners on the film and Cannes’ jury, Triet said the country “was rocked by an unprecedented protest movement that was extremely powerful and unanimous against the pensions reform.” She argued that the “protest was denied and suppressed in a shocking manner, and this pattern of increasingly uninhibited dominating power is now at work in several areas; obviously socially is where it is the most shocking, but we also see it in all spheres of society, and the film industry hasn’t been spared,” said Triet, drawing cheers and a few boos from the captive audience inside the Lumiere Theater.

She went on to blame the “neo-liberal government” for promoting a “commodification of culture” and “breaking down the French model cultural exception.”

Triet dedicated her “prize to all young female and male directors and to those who today are unable to make films.” We must make room for them, and give them the place I took 15 years ago when I started, in a world that was a little less hostile in which it was possible to make mistakes and start over.”

The director seemed to allude to discussions that took place last fall during the exhibition congress during which a number of prominent industry figures attributed the country’s free-falling box office to so-called French “auteur” cinema, and called for a reduction of French films being financed and produced. Shortly after the exhibitors confab, a large conference called Appel aux Etats Generaux (Call for General Assemblies) was organized by some French producers and filmmakers, notably Arthur Harari, Triet’s partner and co-writer of “Anatomy of a Fall.” During that event, participants urged the French government to take concrete steps to protect the industry’s unique financing and distribution model at a time when the profitability of local movies was being disputed.

France Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak was first to react to Triet’s comments on Twitter, saying she was “flabbergasted by her speech so unfair.” “This film wouldn’t have seen the light of day without our French model of film financing which allows for a unique diversity in the world. Let’s not forget it,” Abdul Malak continued.

Others have criticized Triet for slamming the government even though “Anatomy of a Fall” was financed with the help of the National Film Board subsidies, as well as regional support and pre-buys from French pubcaster France Televisions.

Triet later explained her speech saying that “Cannes has always been a place where filmmakers can voice their political or social concerns.” She said it was important for emerging directors to create films without being pressured over box office performance and profitability. Although her second film, “Victoria,” was a commercial hit – having sold over 700,000 tickets in France — she said her movies have not always been hits; yet, she was given the opportunity to continue making films.

A feminist courtroom drama, “Anatomy of a Fall” stars Sandra Hüller’s (“Toni Erdmann”) as a successful German novelist on trial for the murder of her husband (Samuel Theis), who died in mysterious circumstances in a remote corner of the snowy French Alps. Their visually impaired 11-year-old son (Milo Machado Graner) is called on the witness stand, prompting a dissection of Sandra’s conduct as a wife and a mother. Repped by Mk2 films, “Anatomy of a Fall” was bought by Neon shortly after its critically acclaimed world premiere in competition.

“Anatomy of a Fall” is expected to be a strong contender to represent France in the international feature film race at the Oscars, even if it boasts a large amount of English dialogue.

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