Cannes Director Thierry Fremaux Touts “Improvements” to Screening Schedule

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Thierry Fremaux

The festival’s artistic director also defended against criticism that American films are fleeing for Venice and Toronto to build awards buzz.

Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux is saying the festival will make some adjustments to the press and premiere screening schedule after some negative feedback earlier this year.

“We had some complaints and we are going to improve on that,” he said at the Marrakech Film Festival on Saturday, without specifying what those changes might be. Last May, the festival changed the screening schedule so that media was not able to see films before their world premieres. It was an effort to protect directors from possible bad press published early, but led to some stressed-out critics.

Once a prolific tweeter, Fremaux has taken himself off of social media, joking that Twitter thoughts “are what you would write on a public bathroom wall.”

Speaking in an on stage interview, Fremaux emphasized Cannes’ international pedigree and deflected criticism that the festival has failed to get blockbusters in recent years as filmmakers have flocked to the Venice and Toronto film festivals.

“America is not always the barometer of Cannes, the competition selection is diversified. Venice didn’t have the film of [Hirokazu] Kore-eda, didn’t have the film of Nadine Labaki. It is absolutely the mission of Cannes to have films from all over the world,” he said, citing the festival’s charter. “We have to undo this Europe and United States obsession.” Kore-eda’s Shoplifters went on to win the Palme d’Or, while Labaki’s Capernaum captured the second place Jury Prize.

“We have other criteria” outside of the awards season race, Fremaux added. The May festival has now been judged too early by many studios to build that all-important buzz, he argued. “We don’t care about the Oscars. The Oscars are great. I go every year. But Cannes is a different thing,” he said.

If the studios are bypassing Cannes, it’s because of, and not in spite of, the global media glare, he added. “Why? Because it generates buzz and media coverage. That’s the issue with the studios. They don’t send the big studio films because they will be judged within the media circus and it’s not objective,” he said.

But “popular” films still have a place on the Cannes red carpet – which is why Solo: A Star Wars Story was invited this year. Red carpet glamour and star power is an important aspect of Cannes, and he still loves the big tentpole films and that they should feel “comfortable” in Cannes.

Fremaux admitted that he doesn’t like it when a great film chooses to bypass Cannes in favor of one of the later festivals, but ultimately his goal is to support cinema. “The festivals are all friends – Cannes, Berlin, Venice. What matters is that all the films find their spot,” he said.

Fremaux also said he is working on a sequel to his Lumiere!documentary, but that any premiere is at least two years away.

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