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Cannes Chases Stars, Polanski, Documentaries, Jury Press Conference Addresses Women Directors Issue

Cannes Chases Stars, Polanski, Documentaries, Jury Press Conference Addresses Women Directors Issue

The competition jury at Cannes, as always, gave a press conference on opening day. Part of the jury’s function is to provide the fest some badly needed star power–as well as a vacation from their day jobs, Ewan McGregor confessed. They never have much to say at the conference itself, and if president Nanni Moretti (“We Have a Pope”) had his way, they wouldn’t give a press conference after the awards either. He remembers 20 years ago keeping mum about the entire proceeding–like a conclave.

Andrea Arnold (“Wuthering Heights”) deftly answered the hot potato question about the lack of women directors in the competition. “I would hate it if my film got selected because I was a woman,” she said. “I would only want it selected for the right reason, not for charity. There were three films last year. It was a good year. It’s true the world over that there are not many women film directors. Cannes is a small pocket that represents how things are in the world. That’s a great pity. Women have voices and things to say about life and the world that would be good to hear.”

Unfortunately, “I’m a democratic president,” cracked Moretti, who described the other jurors, including fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and directors Alexander Payne and Raoul Peck, as “very joyful happy people. We decided to meet often, every two days, to talk about the four films we’ve seen.”

McGregor highlighted the role the festival plays as a platform for emerging artists, and Diane Kruger recalled winning her first award at Cannes, which made her “deeply attached to the festival.”

As for what the jurors want from the selection:

“I am looking for a film that doesn’t leave me in doubt, that shocks me, educates me, makes me think,” said Emmanuelle Devos.

“I want to discover something,” said Diane Kruger.

” I would like to be surprised by what I am going to see,” said Hiam Abbas. “The responsiblity of a jury member is different from someone who buys a ticket to see a film. I want to be carried away by the film through the vision of the director, have an emotional experience.”

“When you see a truly great film you are spellbound by it,” continued McGregor. “You are taken somewhere in your imagination. I’m looking for that feeling.”

After all, concluded Kruger: “The language of cinema unites us all.”

Given the paucity of stars to walk the red carpet, Cannes is turning to Hollywood documentaries, HBO (“Hemingway & Gellhorn” stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman) and studio homevideo digital classics restorations to boost its star power. 

Robert De Niro is on hand to attend the Cannes Classics restored Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon A Time in America,” which is over four hours long. Wednesday brought the Zurich Fest’s doc portrait of Roman Polanski, who may actually show for another film–his classic “Tess.” Sean Penn is coming not as actor or juror but in his philanthropist guise on behalf of Haiti, as he and Paul Haggis host a fundraiser on May 18.

Like the rest of the festival world, Cannes is booking more docs these days to fill out its programme.  Jeremy Irons tracks the world’s garbage in Candida Brady’s environmental doc “Trashed.” In another envrionmental doc, Fatih Akin documents a horrific garbage dump polluting a seaside town in Turkey in “Polluting Paradise.” Woody Allen is the subject of a trimmed PBS American Masters, but is not attending. There are docs on Jerry Lewis, John Boorman and closing night director Claude Miller, who died right after he finished “Therese.”

TV’s Ken Burns (“The Civil War”) comes to Cannes for the first time with “The Central Park Five” about the infamous jogger 1989 rape/murder in Central Park, co-directed with his daughter Sarah Burns and David McMann. And fame-seeking French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy will bring Libyan revolutionaries to the opening of his doc “The Oath of Tobruk.” 

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