Cannes 2018: Soviet Rock Biopic ‘Leto’ Finds Parallels with Russia Today

This review/interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Leto (Summertime) is a combination of the traditional rock biopic and arthouse film; an auteuristic tale of love, optimism, melancholy, and loss told against the backdrop of a rapidly developing musical scene. It’s as if Almost Famous met Walking The Streets of Moscow. Set in the early ’80s, the star of the show is Viktor Tsoi (played by Teo Yoo), who would later become Russia’s most iconic rock star. Dying at the young age of 30 in a car crash in 1990, he carries in Russia the same kind of counter-cultural weight as Kurt Cobain does in America.

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Roman Bilyk plays his mentor Mike Naumenko, the lead singer of the less famous Zoopark, while Irina Starshenbaum plays Mike’s wife Natasha. Based upon the memoirs of the real Natasha Naumenko, Leto is a story characterised by its naivety, optimism, and the very real belief that, for one brief moment, music could change the world. This message of rebellion comes at a time in Russia in which many artists feel their artistic freedoms imposed upon. This is especially true in the case of the director of Leto himself.

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“We Truly Love Our Country” — An Interview with ‘Rafiki’ Director Wanuri Kahiu

This interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

The Cannes film festival made history this year with the inclusion of Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to premiere along The Croisette. Playing as part of Un Certain Regard, it is also a ground-breaking piece of Kenyan filmmaking for its loving depiction of a same-sex relationship. I sat down with the director Wanuri Kahiu to discuss the ban on the film, the importance of religion in Kenyan culture, and why homophobia is un-African.

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Rafiki (2018)

Redmond Bacon: Can you explain the situation regarding the decision to ban the film in your country?

Wanuri Kahiu: The film was banned. This means it can’t be broadcasted, exhibited, distributed or be in anybody’s possession within the Republic of Kenya. That includes the poster and the trailer, although the trailer cannot be suppressed because it’s on the internet. But if we were to get a poster here and take it back home [then] we would be breaking the law. And it is possible to appeal, but you have to appeal to the same board that banned the film. So right now, what we’re doing is just concentrating on being here and being present in Cannes to represent the film. Once we get home we’ll figure out what the way forward is.

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