The French Syndicate of Cinema Critics has raised objections to changes to the press screenings schedule at the Cannes film festival.
“The announcement of the new schedule is worrying to us. The work of the critics working for the daily press, internet sites, news agencies and radio and television will be impacted,” the body said in a statement.
Under the new schedule, announced on Friday, the festival has ditched morning press screenings for titles due to officially premiere in an evening gala screening.
The press will now watch 7pm premieres in the Debussy theatre at the same time as the gala premiere festival in the Louis Lumière Grand Auditorium in the Palais des Festivals.
Festival chief Thierry Frémaux said the move was aimed at restoring excitement and prestige around the evening gala premiere which has been diminished in recent years by reviews and press reaction ahead of the event.
The syndicate said the new schedule raised “a simple mathematical question”. It asked how the 4,000 accredited critics will be accommodated in the 1,068-seat Debussy theatre.
It noted the morning press screening for the 7pm gala film previously played in the 2,300-seat Grand Auditorium Lumière theatre and simultaneously in the Debussy and was then also re-screened at 2 pm in the Grand Auditorium.
The syndicate said the journalists and critics who did not make it into the 7pm press screening would be forced to attend a 10pm screening in the Bazin (“if [that screening] still exists”) and the screening the day after.
“When are they going to write their articles? With regards to the film shown in the 10 pm gala slot, its 8.30am press screening slot the next day will result in delays in articles on the film – at the very best two days after the official presentation for the printed press, and one day after for the other media.”
The syndicate said it feared such working conditions would result in newsdesks opting to use more images and star-rating boxes over reviews and articles critiquing the films in depth.
It added the new schedule could lead to the French and international press turning down filmmaker and cast interviews or going ahead with them without having seen the films.
These developments could, the syndicate suggested, result in media outlets sending smaller teams to Cannes as time goes by.
“It is the very practices and the time need to analyse and comment on the works presented at Cannes that are at stake here,” the statement continued.
“There are plenty of other possible options, notably the putting in place of an embargo, to ensure the serenity of the filmmaker and cast before they ascend the stairs and allow the necessary time for critical and journalistic work.”
The syndicate’s embargo suggestion – as now used by the Berlinale - is an option also suggested by Screen International chief critic Fionnuala Halligan in reaction to the Cannes announcement.
“We understand the desire to return to true world premieres, but the announced conditions will have a harmful impact on the quality of the media coverage of the festival and on the festival itself,” the syndicate concluded.
Founded in 1946, the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics is one of the oldest critics bodies in the world and today has 245 members.
It founded the International Critics’ Week in Cannes in 1962, which is the oldest parallel section running alongside Official Selection. It is credited with discovering directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Wong Kar-Wai and Jacques Audiard.
The venerable body also organises a dozen other critics prizes across a number of festivals in France each year.