A few hours after the unveiling of the Cannes Film Festival’s 2022 official selection on the Champs Elysees, artistic director Thierry Fremaux sat down with Variety to discuss the festival’s desire not to give in to calls for a cultural boycott of Russian films and filmmakers, efforts to get more female directors in competition, discussions to bring streamers back in the near future, and what these rumors about David Lynch in the row was. about. The all-star competition series of this upcoming 75th edition boasts no less than four Palme d’Or-winning instructors, including Japanese champion Kore-eda Hirokazu (Japan) and Swedish helmet Ruben Ostlund (“Triangle of Sadness”) as well. new films by David Cronenberg (“Crimes of the Future”), Kelly Reichardt (“Showing Up”), James Gray (“Armageddon Time”) and the dissident Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov (“Tchaikovsky’s wife”).
Congratulations on putting together this wonderful lineup. I think it’s the most exciting Cannes series I’ve seen on paper in a long time.
And it’s not over! There are 49 movies and there are always between 55 and 60 so we could still add about 10.
What about the competition?
We have about 18 films in competition, so we have room. 20 titles would be good, so that means there could be two more. We are pleased to have a diverse selection of films from Egypt, Iran, Korea and Costa Rica.
How do you feel about organizing this festival in the midst of the current political unrest and war in Ukraine? Is it important for you to have a politically engaged figure as jury chairman this year?
We always have to separate Cannes’ artistic call from the collective and political issues that are going on around the world. But it is clear that political events are often reflected in films we show in Cannes, because artists make films with social, political and environmental themes. What we strive to do in Cannes is to preserve our legitimacy. This year we will present “Butterfly Vision”, which is the first film by Maksim Nakonechnyi, and it will play in Un Certain Regard because it is a very good film. We never take a movie to please anyone. That said, the Cannes Film Festival is not removed from the rest of the world, and this war that is taking place takes place a three-hour flight away from Paris, so we will continue to celebrate cinema and filmmakers in Cannes without ever to stop. to think about what is happening around us. And there will be two Ukrainian films to remind us.
When I look at the lineup, I see two movies that could be quite political, “Holy Spider” from Iran and “Boy From Heaven” from Egypt.
“Holy Spider” is not outwardly a political film, it is a police thriller about a serial killer, but this police film genre is a tool to shed light on the underworld of a society, show the night, the shadows, what lies beneath the surface. And then “Boy From Heaven” is a film that in an exciting way will explore the issue of rivalry within a religious community. The interesting thing is that movies can show all that. Jean Douchet (the esteemed film critic) used to say that cinema is a tool for knowing the world better. Well, it still is.
Speaking of a politically engaged filmmaker, Kirill Serebrennikov should be able to attend the festival to present his film in competition now that he is in Germany. He was unable to attend the world premiere of his last two films (“Leto” and “Petrov’s Flu”) in competition because he was under a three-year entry ban in Russia.
Yes, I hope so, and it’s a pretty sad story, that the year he was finally able to flee Russia and will be able to attend Cannes to be celebrated is the year Russia invaded Ukraine. His film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife,” is a period film set in the 19th century. A fantastic film that is both classic and modern at the same time. So yes, we would be happy to welcome him.
What is your position on a cultural boycott of Russian filmmakers and films?
We never give in to anything. The strength of Cannes is to respect who we are by respecting others. We do not give in to political correctness, we do not give in to cultural boycott. We go from case to case.
One thing that I find surprising is that year after year, there are never more than three out of four films directed by women in competition. How do you explain that?
Such questions can only be answered by putting them into perspective. If we compare this year and 40 years ago, it is not comparable. If cinema were the only problem, that would be fine. Last year, women won all the top awards at Cannes, including the competition, Un Certain Regard and the Cinefondation. There are no quotas, so we select films based solely on their artistic values.
The last time I interviewed you, you said that you were in favor of bringing streaming services back into the competition, and that it was the exhibitors represented on the festival board who blocked this development. Why is it important for you to work with, for example, Netflix now?
French exhibitors believe streaming services pose a danger. I understand it. But me, I get paid by the Cannes Film Festival, I get not paid by exhibitors. So my role is to think of the way the Cannes Film Festival should position itself. So I make suggestions and the board decides. So far, I have not been able to convince them. I hope to succeed one day.
Because you can not change this rule, which requires every movie in competition to have a cinema premiere in France, you need to convince Netflix to present their movies out of competition. But you did not succeed either.
I do not have that, and I understand Netflix’s position. And it’s normal, look at the producers, when they have a beautiful film, they also want to be in the competition. What’s Netflix’s big movie this year? It’s “Blonde” by Andrew Dominik. It is a wonderful film that deserves the competition. So I understand Netflix when they say they do not want to get out of the competition. There you are.
But do you think Netflix could agree to release their movies in French cinemas later?
I know that is also what blocks things, if they could release movies in the cinemas, there would be no problem; but this is only a problem in France. They release movies in cinemas everywhere else today.
But while you care about Cannes, you’re also a big fan of theaters – you actually run the Lumiere Institute in Lyon and run a theater there. The theaters are having a hard time right now and the number of admissions has dropped. Is it a conflict?
Theaters are more and more endangered, and admission has been declining since January 1st; and Cannes will always strive to support the cinemas, especially now that they need us. This year, with anticipated films such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis” and also with major French films such as “November” and “Masquerade”, we hope that Cannes will be able to help bring people back in cinemas from and including June.
Although the theatrical footage has dropped, I have been amazed at how excited people have been on social media since we made our predictions. Especially with David Lynch! By the way, where’s his mysterious project?
In Cannes, we do not talk about what we do not show, we talk about what we show.
But he has a new project, right?
(Fremaux smiles pleasantly.)