Cannes 2020 to Unveil Lineup Next Week

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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, festival director Thierry Frémaux outlines his plans for a COVID-19-era Cannes, with films that will travel to physical festivals around the world: "We will be fighting to help film emerge victorious."

The Cannes Film Festival will unveil its lineup next week for Cannes 2020, the alternative branded selection of titles that will not screen in Cannes but will run at other international fests.

The Cannes 2020 selection was created after the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the festival to cancel its physical event, which would have run this month. Instead, Cannes' artistic director Thierry Frémaux will curate some 50 titles for the Cannes 2020 label, which will screen at partner festivals later in the year.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Frémaux suggested that the alternative event could end up looking a lot like the Cannes that never was. With the exception of Paul Verhoeven's hotly anticipated lesbian nun film Benedetta, which has moved its release date back to next year — and is a sure bet to screen in competition at Cannes 2021 — Frémaux hasn't ruled out any of the films that were tipped to bow on the Croisette this year.

Many of the year's buzziest art house and indie titles — including Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Memoria, Naomi Kawase's Comes Morning and Thomas Vinterberg’s pro-drinking drama Another Round — are expected to be among the Cannes 2020 lineup, which Frémaux will unveil June 3 at 6 p.m. local time. The announcement will be carried live on French pay-TV channel Canal+ as well as on the Cannes website and on its social media accounts.

Several questions remain, not least how effective this alternative Cannes label will be in generating buzz and helping distributors promote and market their films. The success of Bong Joon Ho's Parasite, which used its Cannes Palme d'Or win last year to launch a global campaign that eventually ended in a best picture Oscar and more than $250 million in worldwide box office, illustrated how important the festival can be for the international art house market.

It is also still unclear where these films will be screened. Cannes and Venice have yet to confirm a collaboration that would see the Italian festival, which runs Sept. 2-12, screen Cannes 2020 titles in addition to its own lineup. The fall fests — Toronto, Busan, San Sebastian and New York among them — are expected to be more accommodating and will likely be the first places where the Cannes 2020 label unspools.

Ahead of next week's announcement, Frémaux outlined to The Hollywood Reporter his vision for Cannes 2020 and why he hopes the label can help reignite the COVID-19-stricken industry: "We will be fighting to help film emerge victorious."

When it became obvious you couldn't hold a physical event because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, why didn't you simply cancel the festival?

Everything pointed to fully canceling the festival, but [Cannes festival] president Pierre Lescure and I couldn't imagine skipping straight to 2021, abandoning all those who are counting on us in the process. When it emerged that May would no longer be an option, we discussed July, and when we realized we would have to cancel July, we came up with a new approach to keep the films and the selection in place and maintain our close ties with the industry. In light of the circumstances, we needed to do things differently. From our homes, operating remotely over the phone and by email, we worked tirelessly and spoke to filmmakers around the world.

As soon as we understood that the crisis was set to last, we focused on what needed to happen next. We decided that we couldn't put life on hold. That meant we needed to investigate rolling the festival out differently: an official 2020 selection to bring the films we saw and loved to cinemas and festivals. The year isn't over yet, some films have stayed in the running and will be released as planned. We want to support them and ensure that the Cannes label is on hand to help reignite the industry.

Our second priority is the online Marché du Film for professionals, which will take place from June 22 to June 26. Here again, we'll need to be very proactive.

You've named several possible festivals where you'd like to screen the Cannes 2020 lineup — how advanced are those talks? Where will people be able to watch the Cannes 2020 films?

We've received numerous invitations from festivals around the world to showcase the selected films, in an unprompted display of solidarity that was moving to witness. We'll be working with them to pinpoint the right strategies. Toronto, San Sebastian, Busan, Morelia, New York, Los Angeles, Mar del Plata and French festivals such as Deauville and Angoulême all lent us their support. The films can travel! We'd like to accompany them to festivals and cinemas in person, through media presence and from a digital perspective. We want to get out there and stand alongside all the people who breathe life into the film industry, week after week.

How many films are we talking about here? How big will the Cannes 2020 lineup be?

As every year, the lineup will include 50 to 60 films as part of the "Official Selection of the 73rd Edition." It won't be the selection as we know it — there will be no competition format, no Un Certain Regard, no Midnight Screenings or Out of Competition showings. The crisis would make these aspects inappropriate — ludicrous, even. But the selection I will be releasing, along with my comments on June 3, will shed light onto what the autumn might hold.

You've floated the idea of possible joint screenings with Venice. What exactly are you proposing?

From the moment the crisis broke, [Venice Festival head] Alberto Barbera and I discussed the possibility of a shared gesture to the industry. We still don't know what this might look like, but he was very much open and favorable to the idea. He himself has a highly unusual edition of his festival to organize. As soon as he's ready, we'll start looking at how we can do an event together, not just with Cannes, but with all our colleagues from the other festivals — many of them have been forced to cancel their events, which is a crying shame. But we still have time ahead of us before September arrives.

What films that you selected for Cannes this year will not be part of the "Cannes 2020" lineup?

Firstly, we received as many films as we have in previous years. Despite the uncertainty we all feel as a result of the crisis, the films were selected exactly as they always have been, underpinned by the same passion for film and sense of curiosity we have always held dear. Of course, the future of these films lies in their producers', rights holders' and filmmakers' hands. And many have postponed to 2021, meaning they will submit their films to Berlin or Cannes 2021. Benedetta's producer, for example, has already announced that the film's release has been postponed until 2021. I completely understand that decision. This means that the selection we will be announcing won't include the films in question (which we nevertheless watched, and some of which were simply incredible). We will only be showcasing films due to be released this autumn and winter. That is where we stand: engaged in the push to get films back into cinemas. A week before the selection is announced, some still remain unsure.

What accommodations are you making to allow for media that cannot attend to view Cannes 2020 films?

There will be no physical, in-person edition of the Festival de Cannes. We're looking to the future. We will be fighting to help film emerge victorious, to assist artists, films, cinemas and audiences. And the press is part of this endeavor. Local distributors, vendors and producers will decide on the best strategies for them. And the Festival de Cannes will be there for them every step of the way.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.