American director Steven Spielberg has defended the decision to award a graphic lesbian love story the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film, Blue is the Warmest Colour, walked off with the festival’s highest prize on Sunday.
Based on a French graphic novel, the film was written, produced and directed by the Tunisian-born Abdellatif Kechiche.
It tells the story of Adèle, a 15-year-old girl, who falls in love with Emma, a blue-haired young woman.
The film includes a number of long and sexually explicit scenes between the two women, which reportedly shocked some viewers. Variety said that these are “the most explosively graphic lesbian sex scenes in recent memory”.
Despite is graphic nature, Blue is the Warmest Colour has been hailed by critics.
Speaking in Cannes after awarding the film its prize, Spielberg, who was one of the jury members, said: “For me, the film is a great love story and the fact that it’s a great love story made all of us feel like we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall.”
“We’re just happy someone had the courage to tell the story the way he told it,” he said.
Kechiche dedicated the award to “the youth of France” and the Tunisian revolution, where “they have the aspiration to be free, to express themselves and love in full freedom”.
Actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux were also honoured by the Cannes festival for their performances.
While the Tunisian media, as well as the ministry of culture, hailed Kechiche’s win, they ignored the film’s lesbian theme.
Some have expressed doubt that film will ever be screened in the country, while the director has said that it would likely be heavily censored.
Although Tunisia is seen to be more liberal than most other Arab countries, sex between men remains illegal, with penalties including three years in prison.
Watch a scene from Blue is the Warmest Colour below.