Heart first for president of Cannes jury

Amores Perros director on strategy, borders and world cinema

by Richard Mowe

Cannes Jury ready for action
Cannes Jury ready for action Photo: Richard Mowe
Mexican film-maker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, who is president of this year’s Cannes Film Festival jury, never imagined for one moment when he came to present his cult crime drama Amores Perros in Critics’ Week some 20 years ago, that he would be back as president of the Competition jury.

Surrounded by his fellow jurors (for parity’s sake, four women and four men), they will choose their award-winners and give the top prize, the Palme d’Or, on 25 May. Nineteen films are competing for the award this year, including regulars Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers and Xavier Dolan, Jim Jarmusch along with Céline Sciamma, Jessica Hausner and Diao Yinan.

Iñárritu said it was an honour to be in Cannes, first of all, representing such amazing friends and colleagues and fellow film-makers. He added: “We want to examine what provokes us more and disturbs and comforts us more. I do not know how it is going to work because I have never been a jury president before, and I cannot control my sets or my family - nothing - let alone a jury.

Cannes jury president Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu: 'I am not a politician but as an artist I can express how I feel through my work'
Cannes jury president Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu: 'I am not a politician but as an artist I can express how I feel through my work' Photo: Richard Mowe
“Being a president means you are in an awkward situation … and a Mexican president at that,” he added. “I could not be more excited to find out the way and to share it all with my fellow jury members. We will be moved and shaken during the next ten days. I want us to use our heart first of all. I would not call it judgement. I do not like to judge films. I want to be impregnated by them and then to figure out a pattern. I have always felt that competition is kind of childish in a way because there are so many films from such great directors. We are going to have a hard time to make choices. “

The director said he was a true believer in the communal aspect of going to see a film. “Cinema was made to be experienced as a communal activity. I have nothing against watching films on a phone or iPad or on a computer. But to watch a film that way is not the same as seeing it with other people. One should not cancel the other. We need to find a way in these times of diversity and inclusiveness to ensure there is a way to show films around the world.

“France is an exception because they protect their cinema but the situation is still very fragile. What I worry about is how many of these films we are seeing over the next ten days will be shown around the world. There are few art house cinemas that really champion independent films. Netflix are doing a good job of encouraging new directors but they are shown on TV - they should also give the choice to people to experience them in a cinema.”

He felt their collective approach should be to view the titles without any baggage about who made it and their reputation.

On President Trump’s decision to build a border between Mexico and the States the director deplored the fact that the most vulnerable were suffering. “But it is not just about this border but all the borders in the world. It is wrong and cruel and dangerous to do this and to pick on the most poor and fragile.

“I am not a politician but as an artist I can express how I feel through my work. The problem is that most people are ignorant and therefore are easy to manipulate. If we keep on with this rhetoric we will be turning the clock back to 1939. It seems that we are evolving with technology but it appears that every tweet is a brick thrown towards isolation and paranoia.

American actress Elle Fanning, the youngest member of this year’s Cannes jury: 'I feel proud to present a  young voice in this Festival.'
American actress Elle Fanning, the youngest member of this year’s Cannes jury: 'I feel proud to present a young voice in this Festival.' Photo: Richard Mowe
American actress Elle Fanning, who at 21 is the youngest member of the jury, suggested that she is still in disbelief after getting that phone call from the festival organisers.

She said: “I was in complete shock. I am still in disbelief but we all met last night for the first time over a beautiful dinner. I am young but I started young as well and started with the best. I feel proud to present a young voice in this Festival and get to be a young audience member and view the movies from those eyes.”

The other female jury members are: the actress and director from Burkina Faso Maimouna N’Diaye; director, screenwriter and editor Kelly Reichardt, from the United States; and the Italian director and screenwriter Alice Rohrwacher, whose Happy as Lazarro won the screenplay prize last year.

The men on the jury are 120 BPM director Robin Campillo, also a screenwriter and editor; from Greece, Yorgos Lanthimos who made The Favourite and is also a screenwriter and producer; French comic book creator Enki Bilal and director and screenwriter Pawel Pawlikowski, who received best director award at Cannes in 2018 for Cold War.

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