The Cannes Film Festival will take a more stringent line on competition films after it emerged that Russia’s entry, Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Burnt by the Sun 2: Exodus,” had been released outside its home territory before the fest unspooled.
Cannes generally demands that films vying for the Palme d’Or must be international premieres that have not been shown publicly outside their country of origin.
Mikhalkov’s film — a $55 million blockbuster set during WWII — was released in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan on April 22.
It was also released shortly afterward in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, former Soviet republics that are now part of the European Union.
Mikhalkov tried to stop the screenings in Lithuania (where Russian films rarely screen later than a Moscow release, to reduce piracy) and sent a letter of apology to filmgoers about the cancellation, but the distrib had already spent money on marketing and, in the end, the film opened as planned to a paltry $46,000 for five weeks.
Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux said, “We learned the film had been released in other territories during the event; we decided not to remove it from the schedule, but from now on the rule for a film in this case will be to remove it from the program.”
At a Cannes news conference on the day the film screened in competition, Mikhalkov brushed off the subject with a joke, remarking that “perhaps these countries are not outside our frontiers!”