James Gray spoke about the contemporary resonance of his Cannes competition film “Armageddon Time” at the press conference for the movie on May 20. Sitting next to Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong, Gray said he wrote the script of “Armageddon Time” before a series of events including the killing of George Floyd and said his initial idea for the film was to show “layers of white privilege” in the 1980s which still exist today.

“It’s impossible to look at the world as currently constructed, at least the Western world, at least my own country, which is what I have referenced and not see white privilege as one of the guiding mechanisms that are in existence,” said Gray.

Gray said people who go to the private school depicted in the film have to been seen as “having superpower privilege.” “It’s a system where the same group gets to the top, stays at the top, and they keep everybody else out. And that’s the system we’re running. How do you break that cycle? So to me, it’s the guiding question,” said the filmmaker who was last in Cannes with “The Immigrant” in 2013.

The filmmaker lamented that there was a “lack of discourse over this systemic issue” of racial and social inequalities and said his film was meant to “show the layers of that system” which “requires a level of oppression so that some people can get all that money.”

Gray went on to say that the world is “in serious trouble today” because it’s “like two people who own everything” and a “bunch of authoritarians that are trying to take over the planet.”