Thierry Fremaux on Selecting Films, 'Wild Tales' and French Critics
"Cannes is a laboratory. We have to try things, open the windows, and try to do something different"
Cannes mastermind Thierry Fremaux headed a conference in Buenos Aires on Tuesday at the Ventana Sur film market, Latin America's biggest industry event organized by the Marche du Film together with Argentina's film institute INCAA. Interviewed by Variety's John Hopewell, Fremaux addressed the LatAm industry and talked about safeguarding films by not programming them in the official competition, Damian Szifron's Wild Tales and the usual attacks he receives from French critics.
"Some very powerful films can't endure in the official competition because they have some rather violent exposure there," he said, discussing the case of Kornel Mundruczo's White God — Hungary's bid for an Oscar nom — and Lisandro Alonso's Jauja.
"Kornel had been in the official competition a few times, without any strong results, so I wanted to protect him somehow by inviting him to Un Certain Regard. From an artistic point of view, it was better for him, and the film triumphed," he said. "Some very powerful films aren't made for that kind of violent exposure, and it's best for them to land in places like Un Certain Regard."
Fremaux also declared to have a "special love for Argentina and its cinema" and discussed the issue of the two main Argentine films in Cannes this year.
"People in France, especially film critics, attacked me because for them the Argentine film in competition should have been Alonso's. They said Szifron's film was more of an out-of-competition film or a midnight screening. But for me, the true challenge was to put Wild Tales in competition, especially because it wasn't your typical competition film. I think French journalists believe all films should have Mathieu Amalric in the cast for them to say it's good," he added.
"We don't have to wait 20 years to celebrate a kind of cinema that features black humor, and it's popular," he said, and added that Cannes needs to open up to different films.
"Cannes is a laboratory. We have to try things, open the windows, and try to do something different. We have to open our eyes to everywhere in the world, but we also need to open the windows in Cannes," he said.
Fremaux, who replaced Gilles Jacob in 2001, also addressed the case of Abel Ferrara's Welcome to New York, the film inspired by the scandal surrounding former IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which was left out of the competition.
"I saw Ferrara's film very early, and it wasn't a film for competition. On the other hand, Gerard Depardieu is amazing in it [even if he's a friend of the dictator of Chechnya, who is a murderer]. Depardieu is a great artist and a friend of mine, and his work was a good reason to show the film, but it didn't happen. My answer was no. Then, Wild Bunch decided to use Cannes as the scenario for the film's publicity, and they did well. Their campaign was also to say 'There's an official competition, but the most interesting film is not there,' which is an easy way to promote it," he said.
"In any case, that means Cannes is still the place to be," he added.