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Deauville Director Bruno Barde Calls Festival 'Glamorous Without Any Stress'

Bruno Barde - P 2012
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The fest’s 38th edition will serve up a diverse cocktail of celebrities and calvados when it kicks off on Aug. 31.

The "Flowery Coast" will welcome a bouquet of top Hollywood talents like Liam Neeson, Harvey Keitel, Salma Hayek, Paula Wagner, Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Melvin Van Peebles, Agnes B and Sandrine Bonnaire at this year’s Deauville American Film Festival. Just off the heels of Wednesday’s lineup announcement, fest director Bruno Barde chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about kicking up the fest’s industry angle, handpicking both indie and studio titles and inviting his famous friends to dinner -- with or without big-screen caviar.

The Hollywood Reporter: There are more Hollywood talents expected in Deauville this year than in recent years. Is this just a timing coincidence, or did you really make an effort to bring talent back to the festival?

Bruno Barde: It’s both luck and our efforts. We worked hard. When you invite friends to come over for dinner and you say "I'll serve caviar" but you go to the market and there's no caviar, you make do with what you have. This year, there happen to be a lot of great films.

STORY: Deauville American Film Festival Turns Up the Star Power for 38th Edition

THR: Yes, there are certainly some famous big screen "dinner" guests this year. They all just happened to be available?

Barde: Take Harvey Keitel and Liam Neeson for example. These are people I’ve wanted to come for years and years. They’re phenomenal. Paula Wagner is an emblematic producer. Salma Hayek is a talented actress and producer. All of William Friedkin’s films are extraordinary. They’re all unique and no one goes as far as he does. He’s a disturbing filmmaker in the good sense of the term. Blaxploitation wouldn’t exist without Melvin Van Peebles.

THR: It’s a tough time of year since Venice, Telluride and Toronto are all around the same time. How do you manage to get the stars to Normandy for the occasion?

Barde: It’s the only festival in Europe dedicated to U.S. cinema. For 10 days, between the documentaries, the studio films, the independent titles, television and the meetings, you have all of American cinema in one place. That’s unique in Europe and possibly the world. Deauville is interesting from an artistic point of view, but also from a marketing perspective.

THR: Do you aim to screen as many world premieres as possible or do you look to other festivals for content?

Barde: Beasts of the Southern Wild is in Competition because it’s a magnificent film. It would have been idiotic not to show in Deauville, just because it has won at Sundance and in Cannes. Deauville is a mix of totally new things and also films from other festivals.

THR: What titles in selection are still looking for distribution in France?

Barde: Matt Ruskin’s Booster, Marshall Lewy’s California Solo, Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s Francine, Lucy Mulloy's Una Noche are all still looking for French distributors.

THR: The festival is really focusing on an industry angle this year. Do you want Deauville to become a major film market?

Barde: The goal is not to create a real film market. I don’t think there's a place for that. US films are usually sold in Berlin, Cannes and at the AFM. That said, it's interesting for a festival like Deauville to offer another way to see the films and also to buy them. It's like going to an art expo where you can see the paintings and also buy them.

THR: And also talk about them thanks to organized meetings such as a round table with Paula Wagner and big French producers?

Barde: Yes, Deauville is about the films, but it’s also about meeting people. It’s a way to build a bridge between the U.S. and France.

THR: Have you noticed any thematic trends among the films selected this year?

Barde: For the past few years, I've seen a lot of films about childhood and adolescence. This year, there’s more of a questioning of our references – our mothers and fathers, this whole adult world that is unfolding. Ted is about a child who doesn’t want to grow up. Robot and Frank is about an older man who is trying to be young again through a robot. It’s a cinema where the adults can’t seem to find their place in the world.

THR: Do you think this is a sign of the times?

Barde: Yes, we’re in the midst of an economic and social crisis, but it’s also a human one. People aren’t comfortable in their own skin. These are portraits of troubled people who don’t know the difference between good and bad.

THR: Why do the stars like to come to Deauville?

Barde:  Deauville is glamorous without any stress. There's no anxiety in Deauville. No one is harassed. It’s cool and it’s beautiful. The stars feel welcome.

THR: How will this year’s fest compare to those of recent years?

Barde: Deauville is like a fine wine. There are exceptional years and other not as great ones. And, like any fine wine, even when it’s not the best, it’s still good.