Festival president Gilles Jacob (pictured right) and artistic director Thierry Fremaux talk about stars and auteurs, resisting pressure and staying relevant in the digital age.
It is mid-April and with the 60th edition of the Cannes film festival less than a month away, festival president Gilles Jacob and artistic director Thierry Fremaux are calmer than might be expected as they speak to Screen from their Paris office.
For the pair, the job of putting together any edition of the festival begins pretty much the day the previous one ends. Perhaps that is why Fremaux says: 'We try to be professional and to not be stressed. We've put everything in place to have a successful festival.'
'Everything' includes optimism: when citing his favorite Cannes memory Jacob says: 'The 50th and the 60th anniversaries.'
In Cannes' 60-edition history it has been witness to 'political uprisings, technological evolutions and artistic movements', notes Jacob. Its longevity and place at the top of the festival heap have come along, in part, through its ability to continually discover new talents - among others, Jacob cites Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrzej Wajda, Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jane Campion, the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.
Jacob says Cannes has been 'a sentinel before its time. It has always resisted pressure, it has always fought against all censorship... It saw the arrival of a cinema d'auteur and rode its ascension. Finally, it knew to invite the biggest international stars along with the most unique film-makers.'
That mix has made Cannes unique over time. Fremaux, who is charged with putting together the official selection, says: 'We mustn't close the door to anyone. The best is when stars are in auteur films such as Nicole Kidman in Dogville, Brad Pitt in Babel and this year Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart. It's also good to see Leonardo DiCaprio produce an important documentary like 11th Hour. Stars protect the auteurs but without the auteurs there wouldn't be a festival.'
In terms of the selection, Fremaux says he does not feel outside pressure affects his decisions. 'When a film-maker or a producer says to me: 'You're going to see the most beautiful film in the world,' I wouldn't call that pressure. It's great to have such passion. We know how to resist excessive solicitation... It's very important to have films from all continents and an aesthetic equilibrium because Cannes has to present and welcome all of cinema.'
For Fremaux, the 2007 selection 'shows to what extent film has become global. The best proof is the opening film, My Blueberry Nights, directed by a Chinese man from Hong Kong, produced with European money, shot in America and in English.'
He believes festivals will continue to be essential in the digital age. 'Why would all these people come from the ends of the world' To see films, to buy them, to critique them, to get them seen, to talk about them, to love them. Festivals are like the World Cup: it's a common passion united.'