“Armageddon Time,” which premiered Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, whisks the audience to the cusp of the Ronald Reagan presidency, exploring issues of race and privilege in American society with a star-studded cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong and Jessica Chastain.
The film directed by James Gray is told through the view of young Paul Graff, played by Michael Banks Repeta. It tells the story of his friendship with Johnny, played by Jaylin Webb. Together, the two boys have high ambitions – but run up against unbending social structures. “It’s very emotional for me, it’s my story in a way,” a tearful Gray said, to a standing ovation.
The 64-year-old director, who has had four other films in competition at the festival in past years, said it was the first time he had spoken to an audience there.
Gray’s latest movie, which is being distributed by Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures, is one of 21 films vying for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. It takes its title from a quote from Reagan, who is heard on television warning that this might be the generation that experiences Armageddon.
“We finished the film Saturday in a complete panic and flew this thing here, so you are the very first people on Earth to see it,” Gray said, prompting an eruption of cheers and clapping in the packed theater.