Critics protest at Cannes changes

Groups lobby festival organisers with concerns

by Richard Mowe

Changes to Cannes scheduling have started a storm of media protest
Changes to Cannes scheduling have started a storm of media protest Photo: Festival de Cannes
The changes outlined earlier this week by Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Frémaux (meaning journalists will have to see official Competition films at the same time as the public rather than earlier in the day) have provoked a storm of protest from media representatives such as the French Union of Film Critics (who organised the Critics’ Week selection), Club Média Ciné, and the international critics’ organisation FIPRESCI.

A release from the French journalists’ group said: “The new schedule published worries us, as it will affect film critics, regardless of the media. A simple mathematical question arises: how can we fit 4000 accredited critics in a 1068-seat theatre (Debussy) when this very film (for which artists walk up the red carpet at 7pm) was previously screened in the Grand Auditorium Lumière which sits 2300 people? Let’s remember that this film was also screened at the same time in the Debussy theatre and again at 2pm in the Grand Auditorium Lumière.

“The unlucky ones will join the 10pm crowd for the screening at the Bazin theatre (if it is still happening) or the one scheduled the next day. When will they write their articles? As for the Competition film screened at 10pm, its 8:30 press screening the next day will cause obvious and problematic delays in publication, as press articles will be released at least 48 hours after the screening and 24 hours for all other types of articles.”

The president of FIPRESCI Alin Taşçıyan said that its members, who represent critics in 52 countries across the world, were concerned about the effects of these changes on their working conditions. In a letter to Frémaux and copied to the head of Press Christine Aimé, Taşçıyan said: “We understand and respect the necessity to have world premieres of films. If you could choose to put an embargo instead of delaying press screenings, we would strongly ask our members to follow it.”

She added: “Our members and their outlets spend a lot of money and travel long distances, in order to follow the Festival. They need to be informed as soon as possible, in order to react on the changes and to take measures not to delay their texts.

"We agree that irresponsible social media posts harm the true nature of our profession, but we do worry about the work and coverage of professional journalists and critics. We are afraid that the changes, as far as they've been published, function in fact in favour of hasty opinions in social media and will have a disadvantageous effect on the quality of the work of professional critics.”

Frémaux had indicated that the new rules for the 71st edition from May 8 to 19 are designed to avoid reviews and comments being posted ahead of the official screening.

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