Abel Ferrara Reveals Plans For "The DSK Affair" Film - Starring Gerard Depardieu

The rumors are real: Rebel film director Abel Ferrara plans to shoot a film about the Dominique Strass-Kahn sex scandal with legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu as the lead. Filming could begin as early as June, Ferrara has told Le Monde.

A French connection?
A French connection?
Isabelle Regnier

PARIS - The rumor seemed so unlikely it was almost forgotten: that American director Abel Ferrara was making a film about "the DSK Affair" with Gérard Depardieu in the starring role and Isabelle Adjani cast as his wife.

Yet the New York-based director is sticking with the idea. On the eve of the American premiere of 4:44 - Last Day on Earth (a film that marks Ferrara's return to work after a five-year absence) the well known director is in Paris to promote Go Go Tales, which was screened in Cannes in 2007 but not released at the time for legal reasons.

Back from the depths of drug and alcohol abuse, and fueled by a cocktail of Badoit and Perrier sparkling water, Ferrara cheerfully announced to Le Monde that he will begin shooting his film about (disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief) Dominique Strauss-Kahn in June, in order to accommodate Depardieu. Filming will take place in Paris, Washington and New York, "in the centers of power," says Ferrara. "In fact, it is a film about rich and powerful people."

But to believe Vincent Maraval, co-founder of Wild Bunch Distribution and producer of 4:44 - Last Day on Earth, nothing is yet set in stone. "It's true that we would like Abel to begin filming in June," says Maraval. "But he has four projects in mind, and we have not yet made our choice about which to pursue."

That statement makes the Ferrara laugh: "Vincent doesn't want to talk about this project. That's normal. He's the producer. But I'm the director, no one can stop me from talking about my film."

As incongruous as it seems to pair this particular director with this topic, the DSK affair (in which Strauss-Kahn was jailed last spring, and ultimately released, after a hotel maid accused him of attempted rape) does, nevertheless, match up with the descent into addiction motifs that have shaped Ferrara's work and earned him a reputation as "the black sheep of American cinema."

Politics and power, a "dirty business"

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not the only one to embody this connection between political power and sexual excess, Ferrara says, citing U.S. politicians Bill Clinton, the ex-president; former congressman Anthony Weiner and recent Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. "It's a dirty business," he says.

With the "DSK affair," Ferrara admits he is attracted to the project by more than just the story. There's also the fact that the specific Sofitel hotel room number where the scandal unfolded "is the same room where I filmed New Rose Hotel."

"Room 2806," he says. "It's one of the rooms where the dirty business unfolds."

And Gérard Depardieu? Ferrara has only seen him in a few movies, but met the actor in September 2011 through Vincent Maraval. éI thought he was great," says Ferrara. "He thinks, he feels things, he is totally there. He is everything a director could want in an actor."

The script is already written, fueled by what was published in the media as well as from the director's own sources. "I have my own investigators," Ferrara says mysteriously, half joking, before insisting (to placate his producer?) that his film will be fiction, not a minute-by-minute reenactment of the incident.

"This will be a film about politics and sex with Depardieu and Adjani," he says. "Suffice it to say, it's a film about both of their characters as much as anything else."

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photos - Siebbi / personnelle

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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