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Cannes Head Thierry Fremaux Explains The Programming Policy, And How Films Are Chosen For Un Certain Regard

Cannes Head Thierry Fremaux Explains The Programming Policy, And How Films Are Chosen For Un Certain Regard

The Cannes Film Festival kicks off next week, and perhaps less so than in other years, there are always questions about the lineup. From the diversity (or lack of it) or why some films are playing in Competition while others aren’t, it can seem somewhat mysterious how programmers for the world’s most prestigious fest make their choices. Sometimes it can be downright baffling, such as last year which saw Takashi Miike‘s leaden and awful “Shield Of Straw” play in Competition, while Claire Denis‘ more adventurous and cerebral “Bastards” was scooted to Un Certain Regard. Well, today head honcho of the fest Thierry Fremaux shines a light on that process.

Chatting with Cineuropa, Fremaux detailed how organizers sit down and decide what movies will get the red carpet treatment. Undoubtedly, they’ve got a world of cinema to choose from, and as you might expect, for Fremaux it’s all about putting quality first, not quotas. 

“We begin with the selection in November, adopting the same stance every year: the editorial policy will be established by the works themselves. We don’t define anything in advance; we are at the mercy of the films,” Fremaux said. “Apart from that, yes, we do try to respect certain balances. A selection has to gather together different generations, styles and geographical origins. And it’s the sum total of these films that gives us the ‘policy,’ if indeed there is one. Fundamentally, the only policy is the quality of the films because once the lights go out in the theatre, the only thing that counts is the film itself; we don’t give priority to anything other than the strength of the work that’s been put forward.”

We’re sure the Cannes experts will be able cite more than a few examples where films didn’t seem to earn the right to be on the Croisette. However, it’s interesting to note how Fremaux views the Un Certain Regard category, as essentially a place where films that perhaps couldn’t bear the scrutiny and stress of being in Competition still get a place to shine.

“Two facts have to be taken into account if you want to fully understand what Un Certain Regard is: it’s not possible for all the films to be in competition, either because of the restriction on numbers or because they’re not all robust enough to endure such an ordeal; in fact, the Official Selection had to find something, some way to accommodate works that were somehow different, unique or fragile,” Fremaux stated. “And we needed a way to shine more of a light on young cinema than we can do in competition (even though the competition this year is giving young filmmakers a great deal). But otherwise, I usually define Un Certain Regard as ‘the Official Selection’s own counter-programme. ‘ “

So there you go—that’s the process behind how Cannes is put together year after year, with the movies themselves the first priority. Thoughts? Any changes you think they should implement? Sound off below.

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