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Cannes Film Festival: Outrage after magazine edits out Guy Pearce's Palestine pin

Social media users call it a deliberate act of censorship forcing Vanity Fair France to apologise for having 'mistakenly published a modified version' of portrait photo
Cast member Guy Pearce wearing a pin of a Palestinian flag as he arrives for the screening of the film "The Shrouds" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in France on 20 May 2024 (Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

A dazzling spectacle of cinema, fashion, and glamour, the Cannes Film Festival is commonly known for celebrating arthouse and European cinema at its finest.

Since its inception in 1946, photographers have eagerly snapped the great and the good of showbusiness as they descend upon the French Riviera city for the annual festival. 

But this year, a photo taken by the French subsidiary of American monthly magazine Vanity Fair went viral for unexpected reasons.

Australian actor Guy Pearce joined fellow actors Cate Blanchett and Pascale Kann, supermodel Bella Hadid and Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir in displaying acts of solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza, as he wore a Palestine flag pin and a bracelet in the colours of the country's flag.

On 21 May, Vanity Fair included a photograph of Pearce in an article titled 'Diary cannois du jour' (Daily Cannes diary), which showcased several photos of celebrities attending the festival.

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In Pearce's picture, the actor could be seen smiling for the camera in a black Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo. But an important detail on his left lapel was missing: the pin of the Palestinian flag.

Egyptian journalist Ahmed Hathout noticed the change and took to X, formerly Twitter, to publicise the incident.

Pearce - as if anticipating what might happen, according to some users - matched the pin with an inconspicuous bracelet in the colors of the Palestinian flag, which was not photoshopped. 

"He’s a genius for this. He KNEW not to trust Western media", Hathat stated on X. 

Users online mocked Vanity Fair for having forgotten the bracelet.

Several social media users also shared their discontent, accusing Vanity Fair of censorship on displays of pro-Palestinian solidarity, with one user commenting: "Remember growing up to lessons about Stalins [sic] totalitarian use of photoshop?"


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"This is a reminder that the media... will do anything and everything to hide any form of solidarity," said one user on TikTok.

On 26 May, Vanity Fair France apologised under Hathat's post: "Good evening. We mistakenly published a modified version of this photo on the website. The original version was published on Instagram on the same day. We have rectified our error and apologise."

The "Daily Cannes diary" article on the publication's website now displays the correct image. 

Several users replied to the magazine, saying they believed it was an intentional editorial decision.

"This is not an error. Stop your lies. You just corrected it because you got roasted online and it went viral. The shame," posted one user in French.

"Why did you 'modify' the photo to remove the Palestinian flag in the first place?" asked another user. "THAT'S the question that needs a prompt answer."

Why Vanity Fair used the edited image on their website remains unclear. Middle East Eye reached out for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

Pearce, who won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2011, has been a vocal advocate of Palestine.

In December 2022, he called for the boycott of the athletic brand Puma over its partnership with the Israeli Football Association (IFA).

This was criticised by Palestinian activists because IFA football teams are allowed to play in occupied territory in the West Bank, in violation of both international law and the rules set by football's governing body, Fifa.

In December 2023, Puma severed its year-long sponsorship of the Israeli team. Despite the brand claiming that the cutting of funds was unrelated to international calls for a boycott, the move was widely celebrated as a positive example of the effectiveness of boycotts. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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