Deadline’s annual group of Ones To Watch is a mix of artists and executives who are bringing something different to Cannes. The distinction isn’t reserved for brand new faces; rather, in this year’s case, we’ve selected people who are branching out or find themselves in waters where they are liable to make waves. This is the first in a series.

waintrop fortnightThere’s been an awakening in the Fortnight, have you felt it? Since joining the Directors’ Fortnight section as artistic director, Edouard Waintrop has strengthened and reinvigorated the offerings; routinely snagging films by Competition-ordained helmers. The longtime critic arrived from Switzerland’s Fribourg Film Festival in 2012, following what’s essentially been a revolving door since Pierre-Henri Deleau exited in the late 90s – and despite a solid mid-2000s run by Olivier Père.

The non-competitive section was founded in 1969 after the protests that led to the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival in 1968. Friction between the two then settled in. The relationship has calmed – Waintrop and Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux are longtime acquaintances – but in the past two years, the Fortnight has become what one person calls “a real alternative.” Waintrop bills it as “literally the most open of all the Cannes sections.”

He shocked watchers in 2015, nabbing Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days for the Fortnight after the five-timer had been highly expected in Competition. The Oscar-nominated Mustang also hailed from that lineup.

Waintrop says, “We hope we are following our desires and aren’t afraid to go beyond what the Fortnight sought previously. We will fight with the main section. Some of my predecessors were afraid. I’m not afraid.” He adds, “When we prepare the selection, it’s war. Afterwards, we’ll sit down to eat together.”

A series of films are in the Fortnight this year which were also anticipated at the Palais. Among them, Marco Bellocchio’s Sweet Dreams. Waintrop allows, however, that there is often an even one-upmanship. “They have the Jim Jarmusch Iggy Pop movie (in Midnight Screenings). I’m the one who convinced it not to go to SXSW!”

The industry is increasingly embracing the section. “What we hope is that soon everyone will think it’s also possible to go to the Fortnight.” Americans, Waintrop says, “are afraid of Cannes and what they see as ‘snipers’ – the French journalists – so when there’s no prizes, they feel a little less secure. Up until now, that didn’t bother us. But if we start to be able to hit with bigger names like Laura Poitras or Paul Schrader (both in this year) then we hope in the U.S. they will say the Fortnight is a coup.”