Ukrainian Model Says She’s Suing Over Run-In With Cannes Security Guard

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

A Ukrainian model says she plans to sue the Cannes Film Festival after she was filmed being physically dragged by a female security official outside the Palais des Festivals earlier this month.

Sawa Pontyjska appeared to be trying to pose for pictures at the top of the red-carpeted steps into the convention center on May 21 when the guard grabbed her, wrapping her arms around the model and pushing her away from the entrance. Pontyjska, looking confused, stumbled and squatted down on her heels before breaking free from the guard and moving away.

The guard has been identified in reports as the same official who allegedly had similar physical altercations with several other Cannes guests, including singer Kelly Rowland, who was photographed in a heated conversation with security after allegedly being ordered “to get off” the red carpet by the woman.

On Thursday, Pontyjska announced her intentions to sue the festival’s organizers, calling on “actors, producers, and people of film industry” to join her cause in a video posted to social media.

“I always dreamed into getting of Cannes Film Festival but then I was shocked about rudeness and unreasonable use of physical force which I experienced on the red carpet with other international stars,” the model said in accented English. “We are getting ready to file all together.”

Pontyjska, a presenter for FashionTV, asked for “a serious lawyer” with experience in similar cases to get in touch with her.

The model confirmed her legal complaint in an interview with the BBC, telling the network that she had been “brutally” manhandled as she tried to enter the Palais with a legitimate ticket for the premiere of French-Italian comedy Marcello Mio. Suing festival organizers for “physical assault,” “psychological damage,” and reputational harm, Pontyjska is seeking 100,000 euros or roughly $108,300 in damages.

A video of Pontyjska’s run-in with the guard has been viewed more than 16 million times on TikTok, with footage of the incident involving Rowland similarly going viral.

Dominican actress Massiel Taveras and South Korean pop star Yoona were also physically herded up the steps and inside the Palais by the security guard, according to video of the separate incidents. Addressing the matter, Rowland suggested to the Associated Press that the guard may have had racialized motivations, pointing out that “there were other women that attended that carpet who did not quite look like me and they didn’t get scolded or pushed off or told to get off.

“I stood my ground and she felt like she had to stand hers,” Rowland explained. “But I stood my ground.”

Festival organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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