Emir Kusturica, Rep Deny Controversial Cannes Comments

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Emir Kusturica

A Russian report that the festival had rejected the Serbian director's new film are baseless, says a promoter for Kusturica's band.

Two-time Palme d'Or winner Emir Kusturica has denied, himself, via a producer and via a promoter for his band, telling a Russian news agency that his new film, On the Milky Road, was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival because of his support for president Vladimir Putin.

The comments came amid confusion following a story earlier this week by Russia's NSN National News Service that quoted the director saying, "Politics has more and more often interfered with the way the Cannes Film Festival works. I have suspicions that someone gave an order that my film shouldn't be accepted."

The story also said the director had submitted his film a day after a deadline set by Cannes. The report was based on an interview with Mirko Radenovic, the Moscow-based promoter of Kusturica's band for Russia, the Baltic and former Soviet countries: The No Smoking Orchestra. NSN said Thursday Radenovic had spoken on behalf of Kusturica.

The Yugoslavia-born director insisted Thursday that comments attributed to him, including claims that the Cannes festival had not even bothered to watch his new film, were nonsense. Kusturica said Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux had watched On the Milky Road as a work-in-progress and had closely followed the project throughout its three-year production period, something the film's producer, Paula Vaccaro, confirmed to THR.

Vaccaro told THR that Kusturica never spoke to Russian media about the Cannes festival and that the story by NSN, which was later picked up by many other Russian news outlets, was "completely fabricated." She added: "The Cannes film festival doesn't have a deadline for filmmakers like Emir Kusturica." The Serbian director has twice won Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, for When Father Was Away on Business in 1985 and Underground in 1995.

According to Vaccaro, On the Milky Road is not finished and was not submitted to Cannes for consideration. She noted that the festival and the director were both interested in having the film premiere at Cannes this year, but it was physically impossible, as the movie only completed shooting in early March and is still in postproduction.

Radenovic spoke to the news service on Kusturica's behalf, according to NSN. But the promoter tells The Hollywood Reporter the news agency has got its facts wrong. "The story is not true," he said. "It's the journalists who are not correct." He talked to THR by phone from Moscow.

"It's not clear [about Cannes], and Kusturica did not say anything about that," he explained. "For that reason, I do not wish go make [any] further comment."

Radenovic's comments give credence to a denial issued Thursday by Kusturica, who told a British film-trade magazine that he was "really confused" about the Russian reports, claiming he had "absolutely not spoken to anybody."

NSN, however, was standing by its story on Thursday. Rustam Yulbarisov, deputy editor in chief at the news agency, told THR that Radenovic had repeatedly told them he was authorized to comment on behalf of Kusturica.

Kusturica has been public in the past about his admiration for Russian president Putin and is close friends with Oscar-winning Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov, another Putin fan.

Last week, Kusturica and his band played in Paris, where they opened the show with Russia's national anthem. Last year, he was banned from visiting Ukraine, where he was scheduled to play with the band, because of his pro-Putin statements.

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