HomeEntertainmentModel sues over Cannes red carpet 'assault'

Model sues over Cannes red carpet ‘assault’


A Ukrainian model says she has filed a legal complaint against organisers of the Cannes Film Festival after alleging she was assaulted by a security guard on the red carpet.

Sawa Pontyjska was one of several guests who were filmed being challenged by the same steward at the prestigious French event.

Singer Kelly Rowland also complained, while footage of the guard with South Korean actress Yoona and Dominican actress Massiel Taveras also went viral.

Getty Images Kelly Rowland pointing her finger and speaking to the security guard at Cannes
Kelly Rowland had a heated exchange with the guard / Getty Image

Pontyjska, a presenter for FashionTV, told BBC News she was “brutally” restrained as she tried to enter the cinema with a legitimate ticket for the premiere of Marcello Mio.

On Wednesday, she posted pictures of documents accusing the festival of “physical assault and psychological damage”. She said her reputation had also been harmed and is seeking 100,000 euros (£85,000) in damages.

Festival organisers have not responded to requests for comment.

A video of the incident, which happened on 21 May, has been viewed more than 16 million times on TikTok.

It shows Pontyjska at the top of the steps to the Palais des Festivals apparently being ushered in by the female guard, who then puts both arms around her.

The pair briefly struggled and Pontyjska almost dropped to the ground, before she tried to go back down the steps and was stopped by more security personnel and taken inside.

Pontyjska told BBC News she had been put in a “bear hug” and felt scared.

Getty Images The security guard attempting to usher Yoona into the cinema
The same guard was criticised for the way she ushered in Yoona / Getty Images

“I was trying to escape from this lock. I went down and I started to run away on the stairs because it was the way back [out],” she said.

“She was trying to push me in[side], so nobody can see what she’s doing with me. Then she kicked me out through the back door.”

Pontyjska said she was not doing anything wrong, and had since tried to contact the organisers to request an apology but had not received a response.

Her legal complaint said she was “violently challenged by one of a group of security guards” in front of “thousands of people”.

The use of physical force caused “acute pain”, and she also suffered “psychological trauma”, she wrote.

Getty Images Massiel Taveras being spoken to by security guards on the red carpet
Massiel Taveras, wearing a dress with a long train bearing the face of Jesus, was also involved in an argument on the red carpet / Getty Images

The unnamed guard made headlines during the two-week festival, including for a heated exchange when she tried to usher Rowland up the stairs at the same premiere.

The former Destiny’s Child singer later told the Associated Press: “The woman knows what happened. I know what happened. I have a boundary, and I stand by those boundaries and that is it.”

She continued: “There were other women that attended that carpet who did not quite look like me and they didn’t get scolded or pushed or told to get off. I stood my ground, and she felt like she had to stand hers.”

Taveras appeared to push the guard after repeatedly being hurried up the red carpet, while the same security worker was accused by Yoona’s fans of being overbearing as she ushered the South Korean star inside.

Cannes is known for having strict rules for guests on the red carpet.

Writing in the wake of last week’s events, the Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner said most attendees are “always rushed down the carpet and up the stairs”.

He added: “For the most part, the job of security is to keep the flow of traffic moving and get everyone in their seats by the scheduled start time.”

More leeway is given to actors from the films being premiered, members of the jury, celebrities representing the festival’s sponsors, other major A-listers, or beloved festival veterans, he wrote.


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