'Inside the News' ('Les Gens du Monde'): Cannes Review

Inside The News Still - H 2014
Festival de Cannes

Inside The News Still - H 2014

A playful and insightful look at one of France’s leading newspapers.

Documentary filmmaker Yves Jeuland ("Le President") turns his camera on the journalists of the famous French daily in this Special Screening selection from Cannes.

CANNES -- If The New York Times is considered by many -- and especially those on the left -- to be the journal of record, the same goes in France for Le Monde, which was founded at the end of the Second World War and has grown to become one of the nation's leading newspapers. But in today's Twitterverse of nonstop newsflashes, free content and eye-grabbing headlines, that position has certainly become a tenuous one, and the changing face of "The World" is the subject of Yves Jeuland's short but insightful documentary, Inside the News (Les Gens du Monde).

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Shot during the paper's coverage of the 2012 French presidential elections, this TV-friendly item will appeal to Francophiles on the small screen, though its cast of witty journalists, and the questions they raise about their metier's future, could have a broader appeal at fests. The film could also make an interesting double-bill with the 2011 Times chronicle Page One, offering up points of comparison and room for debate.

Focusing on the reporters covering Socialist party candidate Francois Hollande's rather dull rise to the country's top seat, Jeuland uses a fly-on-the-wall approach to depict a handful of characters trying to produce genuine content amid all the media noise. The journos include Thomas Wieder, whose campaign Tweets are a major part of the paper's coverage; David Revault d'Allonnes, who follows Hollande's cross-country tour; Ariane Chemin, who publishes excerpts from a controversial file on Dominique Strauss-Kahn; and editor Didier Pourquery, who rules his team with a mix of resourcefulness and pluck.

While some discussions play out like inside baseball for fans of Gallic politics, several incidents in the film underline the paper's difficult balancing act between profit margins, sustained readership and journalistic integrity in the digital age. When Pourquery overrides his staff with a somewhat scandalous front page ("A headline isn't an opinion pole," he declares), it leads to a heated interdepartmental debate. Another dispute involves whether Le Monde should officially put their weight behind Hollande in the election (as the Times did with Barack Obama), bringing up issues of objectivity, political orientation and the journal's larger role in French society.

It's hefty material that's made considerably lighter by lots of fatalistic humor (especially one scene involving a potential obituary for former PM Michel Rocard) as well as by the often jovial atmosphere of the newsroom, where the reporters toil away to provide quality articles at a time when quantity and gossip often come first. In that respect, Inside the News somewhat recalls Nicolas Philibert's recent portrait of French public radio, La Maison de la radio, although Jeuland's approach is more topic-oriented, honing in on the endless debates between a cadre of hardworking columnists.

Tech credits are suitable for television, with composer Eric Slabiak providing a pleasant jazzy soundtrack. The film was produced by Folamour, a company started by former Liberation editor-in-chief (and Le Monde competitor) Serge July, who avoids any major controversy here, -- including facts revealed by the 2003 bestselling expose, La Face cachee du Monde -- while keeping the film's tone both earnest and laid-back.

Production companies: Folamour
Cast: Didier Pourquery, Abel Mestre, Thomas Wieder, Raphaelle Bacque, Ariane Chemin
Director: Yves Jeuland
Producers: Marie Genin, Damien Maura
Director of photography: Yves Jeuland
Editor: Lizi Gelber
Composer: Eric Slabiak
Sales agent: Rezo World Sales

No rating, 71 minutes