Anniversary puts Fortnight center stage

Directors’ Fortnight celebrates 40th

CANNES -- A year after the Festival de Cannes blew out its 60th birthday candles, the fest's younger sister, the Directors' Fortnight sidebar, is heading over the hill in style with a series of events planned for its 40th birthday celebration.

The independent section, held parallel to but not officially part of the Festival de Cannes, was a direct result of the tumultuous events that shook the French film world in May 1968. The curtains went down on the festival because of protests from filmmakers including Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Roman Polanski and Louis Malle, who were upset with the French government's plans to remove Cinematheque founder Henri Langlois from his post.

Gallic filmmakers banded together that year to form the mother of all directors unions, the Societe des Realisateurs de Films, which soon gave birth to the Directors' Fortnight sidebar, where films could be presented free of censorship or political obligations. Now considered to be the most radical of the fest's subsections, the Fortnight includes both feature and short films and -- unlike its official sibling -- is open to the public and doesn't place its titles in competition with one another.

"The Directors' Fortnight had the chance to appear in an era where there was an artistic effervescence all over the world, a passion to discover new films. It still has the same singularity and originality in its choices and continues to attract an alternative, young and surprising new generation of filmmakers," the sidebar's artistic director Olivier Pere said. "(It) is a way to unite young filmmakers from all over the world and to provoke dialogue among them."

The sidebar kicks off May 15, when Olivier Jahan's "40x15" -- a documentary of the event's history -- will air on public TV network France 4. The film will hold its Cannes premiere May 18 as part of a special "Directors' Fortnight Anniversary Evening."

"We didn't want to do anything superficial like fireworks or a cake," Pere said of the anniversary celebration's main event. "A documentary is something that will stay around for a long time as a memory of the history of the Directors' Fortnight."

The "40x15" screening will be followed by a private dinner and party in a "secret location," something Pere said they wanted to keep "private for those who are really at the heart of the Directors' Fortnight."

On May 17, Jim Jarmusch will receive the sidebar's annual lifetime achievement award, the "Carosse d'Or" prize. The director's "Stranger Than Paradise" will screen Thursday, and he plans to stick around for the May 18 anniversary event. Frequent Fortnight filmmakers the Dardenne brothers and the Larrieu brothers will present their latest films in official selection, but the sidebar also will welcome five first-time helmers.

"This year, the selection is very representative of what we always aim to do at the Directors' Fortnight, namely discover new talents by inviting directors here for the first time," Pere said.

The 40th anniversary celebration will continue long after the festival ends, with a selection of Fortnight titles set to screen in Rome on June 4 and a film series featuring foreign and French titles from the sidebar's past 10 years screening in New York and Los Angeles on June 20.

Major Fortnight titles already screened at Paris' independent Action Cinema in April, and special events also are planned for later in the year in Seoul; Melbourne, Australia; Belfort, Porto-Vecchio and Poitiers, France; Buenos Aires; Bucharest, Romania; Beirut, Lebanon; and Manila, Philippines.
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