Cannes: 'Timbuktu' Director Abderrahmane Sissako to Head Student, Short Films Jury

Abderrahmane Sissako
Fabrizio Maltese

Abderrahmane Sissako, the director of Timbuktu, broke down in tears at a Cannes press conference as he described his film's depiction of brutal Islamist law that shattered the lives of innumerable families. "It's difficult.… We become more and more indifferent to the horrors if we're not careful," he said.

The filmmaker behind the 2014 Cannes competition entry nominated for the best foreign-language film this year follows Abbas Kiarostami as head of the jury.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako, whose Timbuktu is nominated for the best foreign-language Oscar this year, will serve as president of the Cinefondation, or student, and short film jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, organizers said Tuesday.

Timbuktu, which brought home the French Lumiere award for best film and best director earlier this month and is also nominated for both categories in the Cesar awards later this week, was one of the critical favorites at last year’s festival and won the ecumenical prize.

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Sissako, one of Africa’s leading filmmakers and the first Mauritanian to be nominated for an Oscar, will follow Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami as president of the two juries, which judges student films and shorts.

The director has a long history with the festival, having entered his film school project The Game into the Critics' Week sidebar in 1991 and his Octobre in the Un Certain Regard sidebar two years later. His Life on Earth was in the Directors’ Fortnight lineup in 1998, and Waiting for Happiness was in the Un Certain Regard program in 2002.

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In 2006, his Bamako was presented out of official competition at the festival.

Directors Jane Campion, Michel Gondry, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Martin Scorsese have also served as presidents of the Cinefondation and short films juries in Cannes.