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INTERVIEW | Directors' Fortnight Head Frederic Boyer: "When I feel like a professional, I'll quit."

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 11, 2011 at 11:54AM

When Frederic Boyer inherited the mantle of artistic director of Directors' Fortnight from Olivier Pere last year, he had no intention of changing its brand. Technically a separate event from the main Cannes Film Festival, Fortnight was came into existence 42 years ago when several filmmakers created it as a scrappy alternative to the lavish French Riviera event. Boyer, who previously ran the successful movie rental store Videosphere in Paris, knows a thing or two about putting good taste ahead of glamour. On the brink of the Fortnight's latest edition, which opens tomorrow with French romance "The Fairy," Boyer shared some thoughts with indieWIRE about Fortnight's purpose and its selection process.
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When Frederic Boyer inherited the mantle of artistic director of Directors' Fortnight from Olivier Pere last year, he had no intention of changing its brand. Technically a separate event from the main Cannes Film Festival, Fortnight was came into existence 42 years ago when several filmmakers created it as a scrappy alternative to the lavish French Riviera event. Boyer, who previously ran the successful movie rental store Videosphere in Paris, knows a thing or two about putting good taste ahead of glamour. On the brink of the Fortnight's latest edition, which opens tomorrow with French romance "The Fairy," Boyer shared some thoughts with indieWIRE about Fortnight's purpose and its selection process.

It must be egalitarian.
It's important for me to not only have professionals in the audience. We try to bring 50 buyers and 50 members of the public to each screening. However, I heard that a film from Morocco, "Sur la planche," which is a story about four women on the run, has already sold to Fortissimo Films. I think this is good. We do want all distributors to come.

He liked Sundance this year and last, even though he didn't program anything from it.
I attended for my seventh time this year. Last year, I loved the Banksy film. It was a real Fortnight film, but unfortunately not available. I also loved Lisa Cholondenkho's "The Kids are Alright." She was at the Fortnight before. I thought it was the best comedy of last year. Unfortunately, it wasn't available to us. This year, I really liked "Cedar Rapids," but that would have been more appropriate for the Piazza Grande.

So what's the deal with the one U.S. movie in the festival?
"Take Shelter" is very good and at Critics Week, but I had a preference for a world premiere called "Return" from a first-time director and was waiting for it for a long time. It's directed by Liza Johnson. She comes from video art and did the film as an homage to auteurs like Bogdonavich and Bob Rafelson, where the mise-en-scene is a big part of it. The actors are fantastic. The film goes really slowly. It's important that it can have a world premiere at Cannes.

He considers Fortnight to be a passion project.
I had a very large video store in Paris dedicated to art-house cinema. I liked to share my taste. I like to tell people it's not just Ingmar Bergman in Sweden. It's not only about the masters. There are also all the small filmmakers. Fortnight is the same thing. I really think I'm an amateur, not a professional programmer. When I feel like a professional, I will quit this job. I will do something else. I'm just a simple cinephile who wants to share my very different tastes.

He doesn't see the larger festival as negative competition.
It's usually the sales agents who decide where to go. Every year, Un Certain and Fortnight are formidable. We don't have Bruno Dumont, Gus Van Sant or Kim Ki-Duk. I love those three films, which are in Un Certain Regard. But we are friends and colleagues. We feel separate, not independent from the rest of Cannes. When a film is selected anywhere in Cannes, I'm happy.

The program is a little bigger this year for a good reason.
We locked down our program right before our press conference on April 20. That was Karim Ainouz's film, "O abismo prateado." The film arrived at the last minute, someone arrived with a DVD. I thought it was perfect. Now, we have 25 films. We have three films from Belgium. Asia was a little bit more difficult, and Korea, too. We have only three films from Asian territories. We have one film from Ireland, from Rebecca Daly, called "The Other Side of Sleep." It's very David Lynch-like, about dreams, huge attention to the sound mix, the ambience is really beautiful. The main actress is 18, it's her first film, really fantastic. We have six French films, but I didn't want to have fewer international titles. Usually, we have 22 or 23 films, but because of the quality of the French cinema this year, we have 25 films.

He tries to maintain the original spirit of the festival.
Fortnight was created because directors like Truffaut, Godard, Polanski and Lelouche decided to protest Cannes in 1968. In 1969, they decided to create the Societe des Realisateurs, which created the Fortnight outside of Cannes. They decided not to include any prizes or awards. They had no distinctions between the films. That's why Francis Ford Coppola was probably happy to be here two years ago [with "Tetro"]. It felt like Coppola and a small film from Croatia were on the same level. When he was at the party, nobody took pictures or asked for autographs. We think this equality is good.

He wants the program to feel accessible.
Our films are pretty short. Most are around 80 minutes. I think this is good for keeping the attention of younger audiences. People are watching Facebook, Google, small clips online. It's difficult to understand why younger audiences go see films. Of course, I still like long films like those by Bela Tarr. They are all thinking about how to tell a story.

There is no uniformity to the selection.
I consider selecting Fortnight an adventure and I like that the audience doesn't know anything about the films. I open a door for them to something different, something shocking, thrilling, funny--a new kind of cinema. The mission of Fortnight is to express all these different things. It's important to have a balance with large films, small films, urban films, nature films. I like to mix different kinds of stories and types of mise-en-scene.

He likes the whole program.
It's my personal taste. That's maybe the difference between Critics' Week and Fortnight. I have a very strong selection committee and we're talking not only about cinema, but about wine and other things like that. We're close friends. I have to love the films I present. I can't go onstage and present films I don't like. I'm free to do a good job.

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