French Politician's Sex Scandal Steals Cannes Spotlight (Cannes 2011)

9:41 AM PST 05/16/2011 by Rebecca Leffler

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged by New York police on Sunday for an alleged sexual attack on a hotel maid.

CANNES -- Has the Festival de Cannes become the Festival de Khan? 

Politics and le Festival de Cannes certainly aren’t strangers, but this year, goverment upset in Gaul is stealing the spotlight from the world’s biggest film festival.

A police investigation, a man running down a hotel hallway naked and angry Frenchman? Just another average day in Cannes. However, while sex crimes and international scandal often serve as themes of films premiering on the giant screen in the Palais, this year’s scandal happened far from the Croisette.

Head of the International Monetary Fund and future French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged by New York police on Sunday for an alleged sexual attack on a hotel maid. Strauss-Kahn was taken off an Air France plane at JFK before it took off for Paris, then charged with a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and attempted rape. Strauss-Kahn is pleading not guilty and his wife spoke out on Monday claiming his innocence.

Stauss-Kahn was poised to run against President Nicolas Sarkozy in the next election, so the scandal has the entire country talking from the Elysée Palace in Paris to le Palais des Festivals in Cannes.

The story has been has been buzzing around the Croisette for the past few days, even the talk of the town on Monday despite that night’s screening of Terrence Malick’s highly anticipated Tree of Life.

Festgoers are usually far removed from global events while in the Festival de Cannes bubble. Deaths in Syria? War in the Arab world? Flooding in Mississippi? All are replaces by champagne dinners, film screenings and business meetings on yachts. This year, Planet Cannes has tuned into what has been nicknamed “the DSK affair” with curiosity. Instead of simply perusing the trades for the latest sales news and screenings schedules, execs were scrambling for local press for the latest happenings on the future presidential candidate.

French newspaper Le Point said in a headline on Monday: “Strauss-Kahn eclipses the Festival de Cannes.”

France’s news channels like ITV and France 24 have seen their regularly scheduled Cannes programming interrupted by coverage of the crisis.

“France 24 is running on a breaking news, full coverage rhythm since the news of DSK’s arrest, so our Cannes coverage has been a bit eclipsed,” said Loick Berrou, the global news channel’s exec producer of the magazine and culture unit. However, the world is also looking for a break from Europe’s debt woes and the Euro’s fall and tuning in to watch red carpets and stars in the sun. “Our coverage gives a breath of fresh air to our broadcasts. The audience is overwhelmed and needs to see something more refreshing,” Berrou added.

The sales market hasn’t been affected by the royal ruckus just yet.

“It’s business as usual. We’re all effondre by this affair, but it hasn’t affected business,” head of French sales and distribution giant SND Thierry Desmichelle said.

Political scandal will be on and off the screen this week as Xavier Durringer’s highly anticipated The Conquest will hold its world premiere out of competition on Wednesday in Cannes. The film is a fictionalized version of current President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power. Starring Denis Polyades as the president, it is is expected to ruffle even more feathers in the French political arena.

Despite the murmurings at screenings and discussions over business lunches, the show must go on and it did. On Monday night, The Tree of Life premiere went on as scheduled, Chopard brought burlesque dancers from the Crazy Horse to perform live at a party while Naomi Campbell hosted her Fashion for Relief event to benefit Japan and Mistress of Ceremonies Melanie Laurent joined Dior to fete their fragrance Hypnotic Poison. 

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