After a self-imposed exile, Xavier Dolan getting back in the limelight at this year’s Rome Film Festival. The Canadian wunderkind is scheduled to participate in a public chat as part of the festival’s Close Encounters section (via Variety, other big names slated for appearances include Ian McKellen, Vanessa Redgrave, and Chuck Palahniuk), marking his return to the international festival world after publicly announcing his intention to sit out this year’s Cannes, a festival that has been very good to the filmmaker in the past.
Dolan announced his intention to keep off the circuit back in September of last year, when he made the decision to not submit his latest feature, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” to Cannes. He didn’t hold back when he shared the news via Instagram, apparently still bothered by the response his 2016 Cannes entry, “It’s Only the End of the World,” received from critics and press at the festival (even though it still walked away with a Grand Jury Prize).
At the time, the filmmaker admitted that “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” starring Jessica Chastain and Kit Harington, wouldn’t be ready in time, but he also pointed to the kind of “trolling, bullying and unwarranted hatred” he sees as part of the current critical climate as being to blame. “It’s Only the End of the World” was widely savaged by critics at the festival, and the filmmaker even took the time to call out a particular critic and her C- review — Jessica Kiang from The Playlist — both on his Twitter account and in a later interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Dolan, it seemed, no longer wanted to participate in the kind of discourse he’s long bristled at, the indie film world has been lacking both his creativity and his spirit ever since. The famously outspoken filmmaker has always been the most staunch defender of his work (he’s hit back at Netflix for changing the aspect ratio of his “Mommy” without his consent or input and put various domestic distributors on blast for releasing his films in “awkward, irregular fashion”), while also admitting the depth to which bad reviews bother him.
Since preemptively bowing out of Cannes, Dolan has remained relatively quiet, save for an appearance at Palm Springs in January, where he took the stage alongside the awards year’s batch of foreign-language directors and kept far away from saying anything controversial. He’s also been finishing up “John F. Donovan,” which is currently in postproduction, but still doesn’t have a release date.
At the very least, the Rome chat will afford Dolan ample room to sound off, as the festival thoughtfully programs the dedicated conversation section with long-form discussions featuring luminaries from around the entertainment world. The festival promises that “the young Canadian director will attend an onstage conversation and will talk about his career as an all-around artist, director and screenwriter of six hit feature-films and two music videos (including ‘Hello’ for Adele), and as a highly regarded film and television actor.” It’s about time.
The twelfth edition of the Rome Film Festival will run October 26 – November 5, and the full lineup will be announced on October 10.
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