By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire May 16, 2012 at 9:53AM
The competition jury for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, presided over by Italian director Nanni Moretti, set a new standard for mind-numbing vacuousness at its official press conference Wednesday. The nine jury members, which include Palestinian filmmaker Hiam Abbass, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and actor Ewan McGregor, expressed endless variations on how they come to the 22 selections in the festival program with “no preconceived notions” and “just want to be surprised” — with asides acknowledging the great honor of having been selected.
It’s not really their fault. The whole notion of a press conference with the jury before the festival begins is pointless — a reality Moretti admitted perplexes him. But the annual Palais spectacle makes the Supreme Court nomination hearing process seem like a full-body cavity search. This is one event Cannes could safely ditch.
The only potential for mischief was a question directed to British writer-director Andrea Arnold inviting comment about the lack of female directors in the competition program, but her response leavened mild criticism with a post-feminist defense of the process. “I would absolutely hate it if my film was selected because I am a woman, out of charity,” Arnold said, then added, “There are just not many women film directors. Cannes is a small pocket that represents how it is out in the world. I think that’s a pity.”
Meanwhile, asked about the meaning, if any, of the various awards given at festivals and elsewhere, writer-director Alexander Payne admitted that he tries to have fun with that part of the filmmaking process, despite it being patently “ridiculous.” “The selection of the slate of films at the Oscars and Cannes is what’s most important,” he said, as Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck and actresses Diane Kruger and Emmanuelle Devos listened from the dais.
McGregor added that what sets Cannes and other high-profile festivals apart is not the awards but the exposure it provides. “It’s an amazing platform, it’s a huge springboard for low-budget, first-time directors that have a great spark and new talent,” McGregor said. “It might be difficult for them to get noticed without an event like this.”
With that, the nine jurors fled the room in their eagerness to go see the actual movies — a sentiment shared by the journalists in the room.