The return (The Return) is back in the Cannes selection. Catherine Corsini’s 12th feature film – her third at the Cannes Film Festival – was initially supposed to be included in the program, but was first left out of the official announcement on Thursday, April 13, following reports of problematic events and harassment on set. After an investigation, festival director Thierry Frémaux’s team decided on Monday that it would indeed be included in the competition. This is the first dramatic turn of events for a 76th edition that has not even started, but already has all the elements of a cinematic plot twist: suspense, a modus operandi – an anonymous tip-off – and collateral damage.
The suspense began with a phone call from Frémaux to the filmmaker late in the evening on April 12. She would be part of the competition, the festival director told her, on the day before he was to unveil the selection. But there was a new call the next morning. Sorry, the board of directors decided to suspend its decision.
Since the end of the shoot – which took place in the fall of 2022 in Corsica, near L’Ile-Rousse and the village of Castifao, where Corsini’s family comes from – institutions, regulatory bodies and festival directors have received anonymous letters denouncing the director’s aggressive authoritarianism and working methods on set. It is known that some technicians left the project along the way and that there were all kinds of breaches of the rules.
Finally, there was an anonymous tip-off about inappropriate gestures by two team members toward the young actresses, who were minors at the time of the facts. Further questions were raised. Was a stuntman’s harness used as a pretext for groping? Was a prospective actress fired because she didn’t fit in or because she reported the coach for holding her too tightly? A report was made to the public prosecutor and an investigation was launched by a health and safety committee for film production, but, in the end, no one filed a complaint.
There is another issue: The film features minors under 15 years of age. When that is the case, for an administrative authorization to shoot to be granted by a prefect, the script must be validated by the Committee for Children in Performing Arts. However, one of the scenes filmed was not included in the original script – a masturbation scene.
Even though it filmed only the upper body, even though it was not kept in the edit and even though the actress, Esther Gohourou (cute [Cuties], 2020), apparently never complained about it, this “unfortunate and unintentional” mistake, in the words of the production, is nevertheless a violation of the law. When this fact was brought to the attention of the National Center for Cinema, the agency – whose president, Dominique Boutonnat, is himself being prosecuted for sexual assault on his godson – strictly followed procedure, withdrawing the subsidy granted of €580,000 while specifying that it would leave the production with the minimum sum to pay the people who worked on the film.
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