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Cannes Winner Cut: Sundance Challenged for Pulling Bomb Plotline Picture

Indiewire By Anthony Kaufman | Indiewire May 11, 2010 at 11:46AM

In the wake of a failed car bombing attempt in New York City last week, the Sundance Channel has yanked from its programming schedule Julia Loktev's critically acclaimed film "Day Night Day Night," about a young female suicide bomber who plans to detonate herself in Times Square.
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In the wake of a failed car bombing attempt in New York City last week, the Sundance Channel has yanked from its programming schedule Julia Loktev's critically acclaimed film "Day Night Day Night," about a young female suicide bomber who plans to detonate herself in Times Square.

The Sundance Channel would not explain its rationale beyond a prepared statement that said, "Given the events of the past week, Sundance Channel has opted to suspend additional airings." The film was being shown as part of a series pegged to the Cannes Film Festival, where "Day Night Day Night" won the festival's youth prize in 2006. As of press time, the company could not confirm how long the film would be suppressed.

Contacted over the weekend, Loktev – whose debut film "Moment of Impact" garnered her a Directing Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival – called the company's choice of actions, "unfortunate."

"I can see how just the subject of the film might make people uncomfortable now," Loktev told indieWIRE. "But we know the possibility of something like this happening has always been there. The main reason I set 'Day Night Day Night' in Times Square is precisely because everyone has thought of this possibility already; it wasn't giving anyone new ideas."

Released in 2007 by IFC Films, "Day Night Day Night" was heralded for its artfulness and non-sensationalistic approach to its subject matter. "Rather than overtly exploiting politics," wrote the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris, "Loktev evokes the works of the great French director Robert Bresson…. her subject, ultimately, is religion."

"I hope it is a film that makes people think—and think about something more than the mere possibility of this happening," Loktev added. "So it seems particularly unfortunate to pull it now. I assume the Sundance Channel is not pulling all films that have to do with the Iraq war simply, because there is still a war in Iraq."

Indeed, the Sundance Channel -- which is owned by Rainbow Media, a subsidiary of Cablevision -- has proudly embraced its forthcoming broadcast of Olivier Assayas's Cannes-bound "Carlos," which chronicles the mass murderous exploits of international terrorist Carlos the Jackal. The company plans to unveil the film on its channel this fall.

As a further example of the fickle ways of cultural censorship, Loktev pointed to Saturday Night Live's "Car Bombing Press Conference" sketch over the weekend, which spoofed the recent terrorist effort. "I was struck by the SNL skit," she said. "It says a lot that we've reached a point where something like that can be shown now."

"So," she wondered, "Was the problem that 'Day Night Day Night' wasn't funny?"

Loktev's next film "The Loneliest Planet" – a slow-burning thriller set in the Caucasus Mountains and starring Gael Garcia Bernal – is slated to shoot this summer.