Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Cannes Diary #2: Grand 'Slam' at Cannes

by Richard Schwartz

CANNES, May 20 - In the absence of any real hysteria at this year's festival, some joker hired a Madonna ringer and four burly bodyguards to jog along the Croisette on Wedensday morning in hopes of promoting his market film.

That's just the kind of festival week it's been. Without any major celebrity appearances or event films (save the closing night selection "Godzilla," which will have been released already in the States), the Riviera regulars are now attempting to manufacture hype.

However, Tuesday night heralded the arrival of one film that should generate genuine buzz on its own merits. Unjustly banished to the cavernous Noga Hilton, the Director's Fortnight sidebar upstaged the official competition by presenting the first real gem of this festival - Marc Levin's "Slam." Though the gritty urban docudrama was the toast of Sundance four months ago, the rousing reception it received here among the international film community confirmed a long and healthy lifespan for "Slam."

Sitting among the packed house, one couldn't help but feel he was witnessing something edgy, something exciting. "Slam" opens a complex discussion on issues of crime and race, and does so with unabashed daring. And the screening itself conveyed an aura of maverick anti-establishmentarianism in presenting something that would never be found under the roof of the stodgy old Palais - the exact sentiment that launched the Director's Fortnight series three decades ago. This such boldness continued into "Slam"'s post-screening Q-&-A session when lead actor Saul Williams stepped up to recite a jaw-dropping poetic rant similar to one he performs in the film. His routine received a lengthy standing ovation.

No doubt his film is due for the same reception.

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