Depp says sexiest man title is a 'joke'

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The Independent Culture

Emir Kusturica is trying to stop Hollywood tainting his Kuestendorf arts festival, but the renowned director did not reckon with Johnny Depp.

Kusturica, winner of two awards at the Cannes film festival, said he wants the festival, now in its third year, to be devoted only to "movies, music and life", far from the "blockbusters that pollute the spirit".

But the journalists following Depp around the event deep in the Serbian mountains, a five hour drive from Belgrade, wanted to know about his reputation as a sex symbol and his thoughts on US President Barack Obama.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" star Depp could not escape having to comment on the "The Sexiest Man Alive" title bestowed on him last year by US magazine People.

"That should be someone else, that confuses me beyond recognition. I don't know how to react," Depp said. "I really thought it was a joke."

Turning to politics, he is not among those who have turned against the US president. "Obama has great intentions. He is a decent man. He is a strong man as well. I look forward to very good things."

Depp starred in Kusturica's 1993 film "Arizona Dream". The Bosnian-born film-maker said he would soon start preparations for a film about 19th century Mexican bandit-revolutionary Pancho Villa, who would be played by Depp.

That is one reason why the American superstar made the trek to Serbia to meet with independent artists and film students at the mountain resort close to the Bosnian border.

The Drvengrad mountain settlement, near Mokra Gora, is where Kusturica now lives and was the setting for his 2004 film "Life is A Miracle".

Kusturica wants the quirky festival, which included a celebration for the Serbian Orthodox New Year and musical performances by Kusturica's own "No Smoking Orchestra", to enable film artists to exchange ideas and expertise as an alternative to the Hollywood-dominated industry.

Last year, American director Jim Jarmusch advised film students on how to make their dream scripts come true.

This year the festival, which runs until Tuesday, will show 29 films from 18 countries vying for the Golden, Silver and Bronze Egg awarded by a three-member international jury chaired by French-Iranian author and director Marjane Satrapi.

"It is really great to rediscover people, talk about film trade (at a festival) without a protocol," Satrapi, one of the directors of the Oscar-nominated animation movie "Persepolis", told AFP.

When you arrive in Drvengrad, after a five-hour drive from Belgrade, "you do not know exactly where you are," Satrapi said, clearly amused.

"At an ordinary festival, you never have time to meet the people... There are always people behind you. Always posing, always trying to give themselves a role."

"It's always necessary to be smart, to have a great haircut, to be beautiful, to be everything," Satrapi said.

In Drvengrad there is no red carpet and only a handful of photographers and journalists made the journey.

Festival goers could pass Depp, surrounded by security guards, leaving a wooden cabin where he was Kusturica's guest of honour for a late-night celebration of the Orthodox New Year.

The Hollywood star said he was "very impressed" with the festival, a "place where there is a possibility for communication, possibility of meeting someone".