Tuesday’s suicide of Malik Bendjelloul, director of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner Searching For Sugar Man, became a topic at two Cannes press conferences today. At this afternoon’s session with the competition jury members, fellow Scandinavian director Nicolas Winding Refn called it “a very tragic affair. I read about it this morning. He was a wonderful filmmaker, and I feel very sorry for what he’s left behind. It’s a terrible thing. Life is a beautiful gift.” Another of this year’s jurors, Mexican actor-director Gael Garcia Bernal also was shaken up by the news. “I met him last year at the Oscars,” he said. “It’s very shocking news. I am very sad that it has to end like that.”
Searching For Sugar Man dominated the 2012 awards season, scoring documentary honors from the DGA, PGA, WGA, BAFTA, NBR and many other groups and festivals in addition to the Academy. Bendjelloul — who was found dead Tuesday in Stockholm at age 36 — directed, produced, edited and co-wrote the pic, which opened Sundance and won the Audience Award. The filmmaker’s older brother Johar Bendjelloul told the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that Malik had struggled with depression for a short period. Certainly there was a pall in the room when the subject of the filmmaker’s death came up Wednesday on the Croisette. These jurors, all filmmakers like Bendjelloul, clearly found it hard to process. But life goes on here at the festival, and this jury headed by writer-director Jane Campion is about to embark on 10 days of intense movie watching.