“The cinema is not dead - it is not even ill.” The defiant prognosis from Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux was delivered with a gung-ho flourish as the plans for the 73rd “special” edition were revealed at a live-streamed event in Paris this evening (3 June).
Frémaux made his declaration alongside festival president Pierre Lescure at the Normandie Cinema on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Normally the event would be crammed with both local and international press but as French cinemas remain closed to the public until 22 June, under lockdown measures put in place on 14 March, Frémaux and Lescure were in splendid isolation.
Cannes regular Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, with Timothée Chalamet, Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan and Tilda Swinton will be one of the highlights, mixing animation and live action and paying tribute to the craft of journalism in the director’s own particular style.
Naomi Kawase’s Truth Mothers, described by Frémaux, as “extremely moving” will also have pride of place alongside British director Steve McQueen who started his film career in Cannes with his debut feature hunger. He has two films made for the BBC: Lover’s Rock and Mangrove about diversity in the black community in London in the 1970s and police harassment.
The real red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival … as the Festival launches its Covid-19 special edition Photo: Cannes Film Festival
Director Francis Lee, of God’s Own Country fame, makes his Cannes bow with Ammonite, a period piece starring Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan and Fiona Shaw, while Swedish director Thomas Vinterberg makes the cut with a pro-drink drama Another Round.
Belgian film-maker Lucas Belvaux looks at the Algerian War veterans who returned changed men in Des Hommes, and among them is Gérard Depardieu.
The selection totals some 56 titles. Frémaux suggested that in the absence of a jury each and everybody would be able to decide on their own Palme d’Or and other winners.
Earlier in a statement Frémaux confirmed: “There was never any question that the Festival would be cancelled. As you all know that only happened once its history, in 1939, on the outbreak of the Second World War. And in 1968 the civil unrest and student protests meant the Festival was cut short. This year we knew that it could not take its usual shape, and that we had to think of a way of presenting it in a different manner. Disappearance was never an option.”
He noted that the response from film-makers in a Covid-19 world justified the stance taken by the Festival organisers. More than 2000 features were submitted to the selectors, resulting in what Frémaux described as a “beautiful” selection. “It proves that cinema, which has disappeared from screens for three months this year and for the first time since the art was created by the Lumière brothers in 1895, is more alive than ever. It remains unique, irreplaceable. We live in a world where moving images are in constant evolution, whether we talk of the way the movies are shown or the movies themselves.”
The process started last winter and during the spring - first with collective screenings in the Festival’s Paris cinema and then individually during the lockdown with films viewed online. Written and verbal exchanges identified the titles deserving attention. “It proved to be a very busy and studious lockdown,” said Frémaux.
Some films the Festival would have liked to have included in the selection did not figure because the producers have decided to delay the release until winter or next spring.
The Festival team were committed to ensuring that the Cannes selection will be supported by innovative collaborations with cinemas and festivals all over the world as well as involving the creative teams all under the banner of the Cannes Film Festival Official Selection. “A festival’s purpose is to place emerging talents on the world map. In Cannes, we’re fully aware of this. In this year like no other, we saw films made for the big screen masterfully occupy small screens. So we want to confirm our desire to preserve the mythology of cinema as well as to look towards its future,” Frémaux continued.
Cannes director Thierry Frémaux: 'There was never any question that the Festival would be cancelled' Photo: Richard Mowe
He noted that when the Festival publishes the statistics of the short film competition or that of the Cinéfondation films later in June “you will be able to see that, among the younger generation, the presence of female directors is even more important and promises the advent of a parity that we are all looking for.”
The festival’s geographical spread also has widened with 147 countries submitting titles. “New” territories such as Bulgaria, Georgia and Congo appear alongside more established participants such as the United States, Korea, Japan and the UK. Frémaux praised the particularly strong French contingent of 21 features, of which eight are directed by women and nine by first time film-makers.
In a change from the usual format the organisers will present a unified official selection rather than categorising them in sections such as Competition, Un Certain regard, Out of Competition, Midnight Screenings and Special Screenings.
Many other festivals around the world have expressed the desire to welcome the Cannes 2020 selection of films. The organisers will soon unveil exactly how the initiative will operate in the autumn. “Traditionally, successive festivals such as Telluride, Toronto, Deauville, San Sebastian, Busan, Morelia, Angoulême (for French cinema), New York, Rome, Rio, Tokyo, Mumbaï or Mar del Plata and even Sundance have invited films from the Official Selection. They will do it again this year with the active support of Cannes and its teams.
“As we did last year, the Festival will present one or two films together with ACID (Association du Cinéma Indépendant pour sa Diffusion), one of the Festival's parallel sections. The Critics' Week will also announce its own selection. We spoke with Jose-Luis Rebordinos, the director of the San Sebastian festival, who decided that the films included in the Cannes 2020 Official Selection could also compete in San Sebastian. He changed the rules, just for us. Exceptional circumstances, exceptional measures.”
In the year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Italian maestro Federico Fellini, Frémaux concludes that now more than ever we should never forget his three words constantly quoted by among others Quentin Tarantino: Viva il cinema!
Cannes 2020 Lineup
- The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson
- Été 85 (Summer 1985, François Ozon
- Asa Ga Kuru (True Mothers), Naomi Kawase
- Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen
- Mangrove, Steve McQueen
- Druk (Another Round), Thomas Vinterberg
- ADN (DNA), Maïwenn
- Last Words, Jonathan Nossiter -
- Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness, IM Sang-Soo
- El Olvido Que Seremos (Forgotten We'll Be ), Fernando Trueba
- Peninsula, Yeon Sang-Ho
- In The Dusk (Au crépuscule), Sharunas Bartas
- Des hommes (Home Front), Lucas Belvaux
- The Real Thing, Kôji Fukada
- Passion simple, Danielle Arbid
- A Good Man, Marie Castille Mention-Schaar
- Les Choses Qu’on Dit, Les Choses Qu’on Fait , Emmanuel Mouret
- Squad, Ayten Amin
- Limbo, Ben Sharrock
- Rouge (Red Soil), Farid Bentoumi
- Sweat, Magnus Von Horn
- Teddy, Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma
- February (Février), Kamen Kalev
- Ammonite, Francis Lee
- Un Médecin De Nuit, Elie Wajeman
- Enfant Terrible Oskar Roehler
- Nadia, Butterfly, Pascal Plante
- Here We Are, Nir Bergman
- Septet: The Story Of Hong Kong Ann Hui, Johnnie To, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo-Ping et Patrick Tam
- Falling, Viggo Mortensen
- Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg
- Slalom, Charlène Favier
- Casa De Antiguidades (Memory House), Joao Paulo Miranda Maria
- Broken Keys, Jimmy Keyrouz
- Ibrahim, Samir Guesmi
- Beginning, Déa Kulumbegashvili
- Gagarine, Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh
- 16 Printemps, Suzanne Lindon
- Vaurien, Peter Dourountzis
- Garçon chiffon, Nicolas Maury
- Should The Wind Fall, Nora Martirosyan
- John And Te Hole, Pascual Sisto
- Striding Into The, Wind Wei Shujun
- The Death Of Cinema And My Father Too, Dani Rosenberg
- The Billion Road, Dieudo Hamadi
- The Truffle Hunters, Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw
- 9 jours à Raqqa, Xavier de Lauzanne
- Antoinette Dans Les Cévennes, Caroline Vignal
- Les Deux Alfred, Bruno Podalydès
- Un Triomphe (The Big Hit), Emmanuel Courcol
- L’origine Du Monde, Laurent Lafitte
- Le Discours, Laurent Tirard
- Earwig and the Witch) Gorô Miyazaki
- Flee Jonas Poher Rasmussen
- Josep Aurel
- Soul Pete Docter