Thierry Fremaux Says Cannes 2020 Selection Has Younger Directors, More International Films

Elsa Keslassy

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A day ahead of the Cannes Film Festival’s announcement of the Official Selection of films set to receive the ‘Cannes 2020′ label on June 3, the festival’s artistic director Thierry Fremaux penned a letter to contextualize this year’s unlikely edition.

While the festival’s physical edition was canceled in April following the French government’s ban on large-scale events, Fremaux said the selection committee received a record 2,067 features for consideration, up from last year’s 1,845 films.

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“The crisis and the slowing down of post-production activity did not have an impact on the number of movies submitted,” Fremaux noted.

In his letter, Fremaux lauded the festival’s Official Selection.

“It says that film, which disappeared from theaters for three months in 2020, and for the first time since they were created by the Lumiere (brothers) on Dec. 28, 1895, is more alive than ever,” Fremaux said.

Speaking of the films set to receive the label on Wednesday, Fremaux said some movies had been anticipated while many others are “discoveries.” “It is the vocation of festivals, like Cannes, to put emerging talent on the world map,” he said.

Of the 56 films that will receive the Cannes 2020 label, 15 are feature debuts, comprising 26.7% of the selection. “Never has the Official Selection included so many young filmmakers. It’s the proof of the creative vitality of film, as well as the festival’s engagement towards the future.” The movies are coming from 147 countries, compared with 138 last year.

As far as the presence of female directors, the selection includes 16 films directed by women — only two more than last year. There were 532 films directed by women submitted for consideration this year, compared with 575 in 2019.

“The presence of female filmmakers is the fruit of an evolution observed these past several years. It underscores in number and value that artistic and human contribution of women in contemporary cinema, whether they are directors and crew members,” said Fremaux.

This year’s selection will have a strong French flavor with 21 local films — five more than last year and 11 more than in 2018. As many as eight of those movies are directed by women, repping 38% of the French film selection. Nine of them are feature debuts. The roster will also include documentaries and animated films.

Fremaux also said Cannes’ official selection has been invited, as per tradition, to festivals that succeed it, such as Locarno, Telluride, Toronto, Deauville, San Sebastian, Pusan, Angoulême (for French cinema), Morelia, New York, Lyon, Rome, Rio, Tokyo, Mumbai or Mar del Plata and even Sundance.

Cannes has also struck a deal with the director of the San Sebastian festival, Jose-Luis Rebordinos, to allow films from the Official Selection to compete, which traditionally isn’t possible due to the fact that San Sebastian is an A-category festival.

Fremaux made no mention of the Venice Film Festival. Industry sources told Variety that while Fremaux and Venice’s chief Alberto Barbera had been discussing a potential alliance between the two festivals, talks fell off after Roberto Cicutto, the president of the Venice Biennale, seemingly shut the door with an interview in which he deemed Fremaux’s stance as “disconcerting.” Among the several hypothesis envisioned by Fremaux were a joint selection with Venice, or at least the possibility of having Cannes-labeled films play at Venice as in San Sebastian, according to an industry source. A gala event jointly organized by both festivals could still be in the cards, however.

Fremaux also paid homage to some legendary film figures who have recently passed, such as the French actor Michel Piccoli, screenwriter Jean-Loup Dabadie, as well as Kirk Douglas, Guy Bedos, Tonie Marshall, Christophe and José Maria Riba.

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