In Claire Clouzot, the Cannes Critics Week has appointed a new head who has vowed to continue the reforms of her predecessor Jose Maria Riba. Riba quit in a storm of dissent and his departure was followed by the exit of other leading members.
Clouzot, the niece of Les Diaboliques director Henri-George Clouzot, was appointed as the section's artistic director, having previously served on the seven-strong selection committee. A slimmed down selection committee of five, will now be made up of new appointee Karine Cohen, previous selector Sylvain Garel, Arno Gaillard and Jean Rabinovici a member of last year's short film selection team.
Clouzot has vowed to continue to open up the event to Latin American and Hispanic films generally and will maintain the nomination of a "godfather" for the section. Bernardo Bertolucci and Ken Loach served during Riba's two-year stint. She is also keen to include more US independent pictures and even student graduation projects. "The main focus of the showcase remains the discovery and promotion of new talents."
Among the few changes she has so far outlined, Clouzot has promised closer links with Cannes' Official Selection.
The splits that emerged after this year's festival threatened to divide not only the sidebar, but also the French Critics' Union. Riba and administrator Eve Roelens quit in late June, while Critics Week president Jacques Zimmer resigned later this summer and was replaced by Gerard Lenne. Riba and Zimmer are known to have clashed violently.
"It all boiled down to a clash of two personalities, nothing more. It was not even rational and it was not directly linked with the Critics' Week in itself, there was a total incompatibility between them, like a dysfunctional couple."
One of the disagreements at the heart of their dispute is believed to have been sponsorship. And already Clouzot is wading in. "If I have anything to say concerning this matter, it is that I need more sponsors. Our partnership with Primagaz, for instance, has enabled us to create our $10,000 (Ffr 75,000) Public Prize. The only problem is that you have to be cautious about the calendar of this kind of financing : you sign these deals months in advance, organise the related 'social' events and you often get the money only after Cannes."
Clouzot herself is well qualified for the job. She is a former critic and broadcaster with France Culture, has edited many books on film and directed three features including The Fragile Man and Remy Duval 28 Place Des Vosges.