The decision to change the movie’s French title follows a letter from the Ukrainian Institute to the director and the Cannes Film Festival, as revealed by Variety, pointing out that “Z” is a pro-war symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and had been used in pro-Russian demonstrations across Europe.
On Monday evening, local time, the Cannes Film Festival said it supports Hazanavicius and his partners’ decision to change the French title of the film.
“Originally, the film was called Z (comme Z) (Z, like Z) [sic], as a tribute to the genre film it echoes,” reads a statement from the festival. “Since the letter Z has taken on a warlike meaning with the war of aggression waged against Ukraine by the Russian government, there can be no such confusion or ambiguity.
“With this choice, the film’s director, producers, and distributor, the Festival de Cannes, and by extension, all the French cinema, mark their solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are suffering and reaffirm with force their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army,” continues the statement.
The letter from the Ukrainian Institute, which was signed by its managing director Volodymyr Sheiko, said that changing the film’s title would be a “gesture against the barbarity, violence and terror of the Russian army.”
In a statement on Monday, Hazanavicius said he will rename the movie “due to the symbolic charge that the letter Z has gained … and following the plea by Ukrainian filmmakers.
“The title was perhaps funny when [I] completed the film several months ago but it isn’t at all today and I can’t bear it,” he added.
“My film is meant to bring joy and I wouldn’t want it to be associated in any shape or form to this war. I’m therefore happy to change its title, and through this modest gesture show my full support to the Ukrainian people,” said Hazanavicius, who also thanked the teams working on the production, distribution, promotion and sales who made the decision possible.
The comedy is world premiering in Cannes on May 17 — the same day it will bow in local theaters.
Hazanavicius responded to the letter on Friday (April 22), telling Variety that he felt distraught at having caused the Ukrainian people any distress. “[It] makes me feel powerless and so sad, because it’s the last thing I wanted to do.
“I dedicated several years of my life to making a film called ‘The Search’ about the 1999 war between Chechnya and Russia, which showed the barbaric way in which the Russian army treated the people of Chechnya,” continued Hazanavicius. “I think I’m the only French filmmaker who made a film about this.”
At the time, however, he said it was “too late” for the French title to be changed with just weeks to go until its release in cinemas.
“Coupé’s” international title is still “Final Cut” and is expected to premiere at Cannes under that title instead of “Z (Comme Z)” as was initially planned. The movie was originally slated to bow at Sundance in January before the Utah festival’s last-minute decision to move online.
Manori Ravindran contributed to this story.