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Cannes selection commented by Thierry Fremeaux

Questions and Answers with Thierry Frémaux Cannes Festival Managing Director and Artistic Director.
Cannes May 11-21, 2005

- What makes up the Official Selection?
As it does every year, the Official Selection of the Festival de Cannes 2005 comprises the Compétition, Un Certain Regard, Hors Compétition screenings, special screenings and midnight screenings. It also offers a short film competition and a film school competition (Cinéfondation). Cannes Classics is a selection of heritage films, shown principally in the Buñuel theatre. Finally, to the Palais theatres (Lumière, Debussy, Bazin, Buñuel), we can now add the Cinéma de la Plage which enables festival goers and the people of Cannes to see films in the open air.

- For the last few years, when you have presented statistics regarding the selection process, the numbers have constantly been rising. How about this year?
Well, they have risen again. In 2004, for the very first time, we saw more than one thousand films: 1325 films were submitted from 85 countries. This year, the figure rises by 16.2% as we saw 1540 feature films from 97 different countries (2003: 908; 2002: 939; 2001: 854; in 2000: 681). Compared to 2002 (939 FF), that is an increase of 64%; and compared to 2000 (681 FF), an increase of… 126%. The figures have doubled in the last five years.

- How do you explain this constant increase?
The reason has been the same for several years: the development of digital technology has enabled the emergence of a form of cinema that is easier to produce, the desire of many producers to come to Cannes, the fact that the Festival has become more open. The rise could also be attributed to the 2004 edition having been such a success. If you look at the statistics in isolation, Cannes attracts an increasing number of film professionals every year (for the films submitted for selection, feature and short films, and those presented by the Marché du Film).

- And yet the number of films selected does not rise?
No. We are determined to control the rise in numbers and, more than ever, to present only a small selection so as to better enhance those that are selected.

- So what are the figures?
Cannes 2005 will present 53 films from different 28 countries. In total, there will be 50 world premières, bearing witness to the Festival de Cannes' desire to show previously unseen work. There are 20 feature films in competition from 13 different countries. The Selection is also presenting 11 first films, one of which is in competition.

- We left the Festival 2004 with a dual impression: it was considered to have been a good year for the Selection and it felt as though there had been a strong desire for renewal. What are the perspectives for 2005?
First of all, I would like to say again that each year is particular and unique. Last year we had the opportunity to invite many young filmmakers to join the Compétition, and so we did. We had the opportunity to confirm the emergence of documentary and animated films, and so we did that too. As that year's production presented those characteristics, so did the selection. In 2005, the year in cinematographic terms has been different and consequently the selection will be too.

- Isn't there a desire though to give each year a particular feel?
Yes, but not to the expense of all else. Each year does have a particular feel and we try to make our choices as consistent as possible so that the selection is like a journey through one year of film. But we never begin the selection process with any preconceived ideas. In fact, the selection is made by the films themselves! Its overall design takes a while to come forth and we like to leave ourselves open to suggestion until the very last minute. If, in 2005, there are no animated or documentary films in Compétition, then it will be because the right opportunities were simply not there.

- As a first impression though, could we say that the great filmmakers are back in strength…?
In Compétition, yes, since there will be many experienced filmmakers at Cannes. If, last year, we seemed to concentrate more on new discoveries, the return to the Compétition of some of the greatest filmmaker delights us to just the same extent. The "great filmmakers" never left the Croisette: Wim Wenders, David Cronenberg, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Michael Haneke, Atom Egoyan, Lars von Trier, Amos Gitaï, Hou Hsiao Hsien or Jim Jarmusch have all been here in Compétition before, and they will be here again with films that confirm their importance in contemporary creation. However, although Lars von Trier was here in 2003, Wim Wenders has not featured in Compétition since 1998. Each case is unique and there are no "rights of entry" because of the singular journeys they each tread: several of them have made other films since their last appearance at Cannes. If they have been chosen it means that their films won us over by their own merits and for what they have to say about cinematographic creation today.

- But doesn't this return in strength mean that cinema is not evolving…?
No, that is not a pertinent argument. We are talking about art, about cinema, not sport. Great filmmakers make great works; which is always good to hear. However, as this trend began to emerge, my eye was drawn further-a-field. To sit alongside these great craftsmen I needed to find other landscapes, faces and languages. I found them, and they are present for the first time in Compétition: Wang Xiaoshuai and Johnnie To from China, Marco Tullio Giordana form Italy, Hinner Saleem from Iraq, Carlos Reygadas from Mexico and, from the United States, Roberto Rodriguez and Tommy Lee Jones (a Hollywood veteran… and a young filmmaker too). The desire to provide a worldwide panorama of the diversity in film creation is also illustrated by Un Certain Regard, which continues its policy of artistic and geographical exploration by inviting young filmmakers to come to Cannes for the first time.

- There seems to be a strong Asian and Latin-American presence.
In Competition, yes, but also throughout the Selection, Asian cinema confirms its strength: China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and even Sri Lanka. Asia will also be part of the jury. The continent is very active and illustrates its creativity in both genre cinema and cinéma d'auteur. It is no longer suitable to talk about their cinema in terms of emergence but in terms of confirmation, it is a strong trend that has a great public following.
In geographical terms we also have to acknowledge the emergence of Latin America: Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Very interesting things are happening there which come to counterbalance the presence of Asia.

- What about Europe?
Europe has not been left out and there are great surprises from the least expected countries: Iceland, Romania and Hungary. Furthermore, Austria and Germany, which have two films in Un Certain Regard, confirm the birth not only of a new generation of filmmakers, but also of authors, actors and producers.

- You are presenting 20 films in competition, compared to 19 in 2004.
This is due to the opening film being in the competition. We wanted the competition to begin right from the start.

- What are the main a characteristics of the films presented?
This year is under the sign of cinéma d'auteur, whereas in 2004 we were under the sign of eclecticism. The competition will thus present very personal and unclassifiable works: Sin City by Roberto Rodriguez who, with the help of Franck Miller and with Quentin Tarantino as guest-director has made a "human cartoon"; Batalla en el cielo from the Mexican Carlos Reygadas, whose radical aesthetics are only rivalled by the darkness of his subject; Free Zone by Amos Gitaï, who carries his camera into the heart of burning, passionate territories; Election by Johnnie To, who goes beyond the codes of the genre with this very "auteur" version of a traditional Hong Kong detective film.
There is also a return to classicism in the competition: Where the Truth Lies by Atom Egoyan is a psychological thriller (in cinemascope and in colour!), Don't Come Knocking by Wim Wenders, who continues his journey through America and its cinema, History of Violence by David Cronenberg, which adds its contribution to the classic storylines of "vengeance" films as well as his personal obsessions; Quand tu es né by Marco Tullio Giordana represents Italy in competition with a social piece of work that closely intertwines content and form. Among the newcomers, there is The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada by Tommy Lee Jones who, for his first film, and with the help of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), proposes a contemporary western between the USA and Mexico, or Shanghai Dreams by Wang Xiaoshuai who visits the '70's in China.
Finally, we have filmmakers who continue their aesthetic exploration and try to extend narrative and directional forms: Lars von Trier who, with Manderlay, explicitly places himself in direct continuation of Dogville, which was presented in 2003; Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne who, with L'Enfant, propose a very political vision of Belgian (and European) society; Hou Hsiao Hsien, whose film - The Best of Our Times - becomes a journey into his own filmography; Gus Van Sant returns after Elephant with a film that is even further removed from Hollywood and its narrative codes.

- In terms of content, are there any common themes?
That's something we can all think about at the end of the Festival. There are common themes that run through all the films, in some more explicitly than in others. For example, the theme of paternity can be seen in the work of filmmakers as different as Jim Jarmusch (looking for paternity), Wim Wenders (reflecting on paternity), the Dardenne brothers (coming to terms with paternity) and Marco Tullio Giordana (finding paternity).
Another theme explores violence in the world: the film by David Cronenberg not only has an emblematic title on the subject (History of Violence); it underlines that the violence of society will be, if we are not careful, that of the children who have grown up with it.
Do not make the mistake, however, of thinking that the films seem particularly dark or can be reduced to generalisations.

- How does Un Certain Regard look?
The Festival intends to provide Un Certain Regard with maximal visibility more than ever before. Having chosen a filmmaker like Alexander Payne to preside the Jury is proof of this. We said earlier that the competition is represented by renowned directors, so Un Certain Regard is there precisely to open the doors of the Festival to young filmmakers. It will present twenty films (9 of which are first films) from 15 different countries, including notably Sri Lanka, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Iran, Iceland and Spain.

- Some figures?
The figures confirm the strong direction taken over the last few years: greater geographical scope with the presence of 15 countries, and renewal with 9 first films.

- What else?
As for the rest of the selection, the presence of special screenings in Salle Buñuel should be noted: there you will find Rithy Panh from Cambodia, Avi Mograbi from Israel, Seijun Suzuki from Japan and Fatih Akin from Germany who presents a documentary about popular Turkish music that will also be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage.
We should not forget two prestigious Hors Compétition films: the return of Woody Allen with Match Point, a film entirely shot in London, and the world première screening of the last episode of George Lucas" Star Wars, in the presence of George Lucas, celebrating in Cannes the last chapter in one of the most mythical adventures in film history.
Finally, three late shows are proposed for enthusiasts: a detective comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black: a film noir from Korea, Bittersweet Life by Kim Jee-woon and an evening dedicated to cinéma-bis with Midnight Movies by Stuart Samuels, screened on… Friday 13th.

- Who can we expect to see on the Croisette this year?
Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Michael Pitt, Asia Argento, Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer, Ewan McGregor, Samuel Jackson, Nathalie Portman, Danny Glover, Viggo Mortensen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Shu Qi, Tommy Lee Jones, Zhang Ziyi, Carole Bouquet, Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Tim Roth, Eva Marie Saint, Sarah Polley, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Benicio del Toro, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Edward Norton.

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