Director Michel Hazanavicius’ new film was supposed to open the Cannes Film Festival next month under its French title, Z (Comme Z). It’s now slated to premiere under a different name instead after Ukrainian protesters noted that the letter Z has come to symbolize support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The director announced on Monday that he has renamed the Zombie comedy Coupé for the Cannes premiere. It was already scheduled to be released internationally under the name Final Cut, IndieWire reports.
In a statement reported by The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, Hazanavicius wrote that the title was “perhaps funny” when the film was completed several months ago, but not anymore.
“My film is made to bring joy and under no circumstances would I want it to be associated directly or indirectly with this war,” he wrote. “I am therefore very happy to change its title, and to this extent to mark my most total support for the Ukrainian people.”
Hazanavicius is best known for the 2011 comedy-drama The Artist, for which he won the Academy Award for best director. His upcoming film is a remake of the 2017 Japanese zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead, starring Romain Duris and Bérénice Bejo.
Hazanavicius said that it is “too late” to change the film’s title in France, where it will premiere in just a few weeks. But he said he plans to use the international title on all marketing materials at Cannes, which begins May 17.
The announcement comes days after the Ukrainian Institute sent a letter to Hazanavicius and Cannes officials, urging them to rename the opening night film as “a gesture against the barbarity, violence and terror of the Russian army,” according to Variety.
Natalie Movshovych, head of film at the Ukrainian Institute, told the publication that local media in Russia had been using the film’s title to their advantage, running stories that she described as “See? They are supporting us, too.”
Hazanavicius told Variety that the film’s name was inspired by what France calls “series Z” movies, similar to B- (or low-budget) movies in the U.S.
He said he never meant to cause Ukrainians harm, noting that he had spent several years making a movie called The Search about the 1999 war between Chechnya and Russia that showcased the violence of the Russian military.
“My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people who have been suffering enough, and the last thing I want to do is to cause more pain or more discomfort,” he added.
Cannes organizers announced last month that they will not welcome official Russian delegations or “accept the presence of anyone linked to the Russian government” unless the war ends in conditions that satisfy the Ukrainian public. They are not boycotting Russian films, however.
Officials are also hosting a “Ukraine Day” during the festival to support the country’s film industry, and say they have been in discussions with the European Commission about how to safely bring over a delegation of more than two dozen Ukrainian filmmakers and other professionals.
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.