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Despite Cannes Film Festival’s Political Ban, Cate Blanchett Made a Subtle Pro-Palestine Fashion Statement

by Lois Geal

The Cannes Film Festival braced for a tumultuous 77th edition as wars continue in Gaza and Ukraine. Taking place from May 14th - 25th, attendees and organizers anticipated protests, politically charged speeches, pins, and flags that signal solidarity with Palestinian civilians, Israeli hostages, and Ukrainians looking for more military assistance from the West as they try to fend off the Russian invasion.

But, if the festival has its way, there will be none of that. 

The city of Cannes preemptively banned protests along the Croisette and its surroundings during the 11-day festival. Likewise, the festival hired private security to trail the jurors, including Eva Green and Lily Gladstone, to keep activists from approaching them. 

While the festival was initially amenable to a plan for Arab filmmakers to wear pins showing support for the Palestinians under siege in Gaza, instead they banned them as well as pins that pay homage to the more than 100 remaining Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas during the October 7th terror attack.

The internet is still divided over whether or not Cate Blanchett's Cannes red carpet dress was a message for Palestinians, but her look certainly caught the eye. 

Blanchett, 55, attended Monday's premiere of The Apprentice wearing a Jean Paul Gaultier spring 2023 haute couture satin dress by Colombian-French designer Haider Ackermann, who is known for his sculptural creations. The colour-blocked dress featured a black front and a light pink back (which can appear white) with emerald green lining inside - a change from its original light green and purple mix. 

While posing for photographers, Blanchett lifted the back of her dress to expose the green lining. Seen against the colour of the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, many commentators interpreted Blanchett's dress as a message of solidarity with Palestinians, as the purposeful move created a visual that resembled the Palestinian flag.

Blanchett finished her look with a chain of pearls from Louis Vuitton that sat on her shoulder. The jewellery was custom-made for the actress by creative director Francesca Amfitheatrof.

Besides her red carpet looks and acting skills, Blanchett is well known for her activism and championing women's rights. She's also been a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador since 2016.

In October, she also joined over 50 other prominent figures in signing a letter from Artists 4 Ceasefire. This letter, addressed to President Joe Biden, called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, urging that he put “an end to the bombing of Gaza.”

“This year we decided to host a festival without polemics, to make sure that the main interest for us all to be here is cinema, so if there are other polemics it doesn’t concern us,” festival chief Thierry Frémaux said at a press conference on the eve of opening night festivities.

That hasn’t stopped Cannes-bound artists from posting on social media. 

“There is nothing that justifies the killing of children in Gaza. or anywhere,” Omar Sy, one of the jurors, recently shared on Instagram in a post urging elected leaders to take action to try to stop Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza city of Rafa.

Over the years, the high-wattage festival has allowed some political and activist events. In 2018, Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, and Salma Hayek were among 82 women who staged a demonstration on the red carpet against gender inequality in the industry. 

In 2022, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared via video at the Cannes opening ceremony, where he promised that his country “will win in this war” against Russia, to thunderous applause.

But the appetite for political messaging has waned as the issues have become more divisive in the movie business, with the festival and participants wanting to keep the focus on the films themselves. 

Zelenskyy sought to return to Cannes last year but was rebuffed. Sources say he was poised to make a surprise video appearance at the start of the “Killers of the Flower Moon” premiere and solicit continued support for his country.

Until the conflict is over, the reactions probably won’t stop, and actors will keep speaking out about the issue, supporting one side or the other. We hope that the conflict is resolved soon and that peace will arrive imminently.

Edited by Emily Duff


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