It’s always fun to judge the Cannes jury before they judge the Competition films. There’s 21 this year — from Quentin Tarantino’s return after a decade with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (which nobody has seen) to Pedro Almodovar’s autobiographical “Pain & Glory,” which has built strong advance buzz from its Spain release and advance screenings in Paris and London. Word is, Antonio Banderas could be a strong contender for the Best Actor Palme.
When 2019 Cannes jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu debuted “Amores Perros” 20 years ago in the Semaine de la Critique, he said, he would never have imagined that he’d be jury president — the first Latino American filmmaker. Clearly, he’s the strongest voice on this year’s jury, which assembled at a festival dinner Monday night.
Predictably, Iñárritu said he hoped the jury comprised of four men, four women would “use their heart” as they watch movies over the next 10 days. “I do not call it judgment. I want to be impregnated by them and react and share, figure out a pattern and frequency that works the best. … I would like to see the films as if we do not know who directed, to respect cinema. No fame or name will influence this decision.”
The debates over the films, Iñárritu predicted, will spark discussions that are “intense, hard, and passionate.” But he does not plan to exercise a strong hand over his fellow jurors. He reminded us that he has “never controlled anything, not sets, not my family.”
Bound to be loyal to her jury president is 21-year-old Elle Fanning, because her first role 13 years ago was in Iñárritu’s “Babel,” as the daughter of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. But she promised to represent the younger point of view. “I am proud to represent a young voice in this festival,” she said, “to view movies from the eyes of a young audience member.”
Other members of the jury come from the worlds of graphic novels (Yugoslavian author-filmmaker Enki Bilal, “Tykho Moon”), American academia and indie film (writer-director Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”), Italian cinema (writer-director Alice Rohrwacher, “Happy as Lazzaro”), French cinema (writer-director Robin Campillo, “BPM”), British cinema (Greek-born Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”), Senegal cinema (actress-documentarian Maimouna N’Diaye, “Eye of the Storm”), and Polish cinema (Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”).
Lanthimos recalled his trembling naivete when he debuted “Dogtooth” at Cannes 10 years ago. “It’s a strange journey,” he said. “I’m happy this time round in this wonderful position just being able to watch films.”
Two of the women directors are tired of being singled out as female, they said. “I look forward that a time will come when we do not have to say ‘woman directors,’ or ‘as a woman,'” said Reichardt.
Rohrwacher added that instead of complaining about the representation of women in festivals, people should look at the start of the process. “It’s a bit like asking someone who survived a shipwreck why they’re still alive,” she said. “Well, ask the person that built the boat. Ask schools, look behind the scenes. We need to talk about the beginning of the chain, the procedure. It’s beginning to change.”
When asked about the state of cinema, Iñárritu made a case for appreciating the enormous numbers of films being made all over the world, and while he thanked France for protecting film in theaters — “art-film theater owners are great heroes” — he also praised Netflix for making them available online. But he hopes that the communal experience in theaters will somehow survive. To see a film on a computer, iPad or iPhone, he said, “is not to truly experience something that is born to be experienced as communal.”
Also not communal is the isolation that comes from proliferating technology and social media, he added. Seeing films from many cultures in cinemas is also essential to experiencing each other, he said. That was why he made Cannes 2017 selection “Carne y Arena,” which was a way for him to “respond to what I think is happening not only on the U.S. /Mexico border but all the borders in the world. That work is my way to express how wrong, how cruel, and how dangerous it is. … These guys are ruling with rage and arrogance and vice, stating and writing fiction and making people believe those are real things. I am not a politician. As an artist, I can express through my job and with a heart open what I think will be truthful. The problem is ignorance. Not having films all around the world being shown is a dangerous thing. Then we cannot consider the otherness as we.”