The French Film Critics’ Guild and journalists from France’s Club Média Ciné have reacted with dismay to changes at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, calling them “harmful” for the quality of media coverage, and for the festival itself. Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux said on Friday that the fest will henceforth do away with early morning press screenings for the 7PM red carpet world premieres. The press instead will discover the films from the Debussy Theater simultaneously with the audience who will be watching in the main Lumière auditorium. The arrangement is “worrying,” say the groups.
In a joint statement, they said, “The work of daily newspaper critics, websites, news agencies, radio and television will be impacted.” They wonder how 4,000 accredited critics will fit into the Debussy which holds 1,068.
They also fear for the ranks of accredited press who may be turned away from the Debussy and have to wait for a later showing. “When will they write their stories?,” the groups ask. Changes for the 10PM red carpet premieres — which will now be screened for the press at 8:30AM the next morning — will “lead to clear and punishing delays in publishing, at least two days after the official presentation for the print press and one day for other media.”
The complexity of schedules caused by the new organization, “will only push journalists to forgo interviews or to do them without having seen the films in question,” say the bodies. They also warn of the likelihood that outlets will reduce coverage by sending smaller teams. Meanwhile, “The fear that such working conditions will lead editorial staff to give preference to photos over articles and star charts over critical analysis is legitimate.”
The critics continue, “It is the practice of our métier and the required time to analyze and comment on films presented at the Cannes Film Festival that are at stake.”
Alternative solutions, they opine “are probably possible” including the use of embargoes — something other members of the press have suggested since Frémaux confirmed the plan on Friday.
Part of Frémaux’s reasoning was to return to the true sense of the term world premiere. “It will be total suspense,” he said. The plan will also go some way to avoiding bad — or good — buzz ahead of the evening. Cannes critics are notoriously among the harshest in the world and some films have seen their fates sealed before 9AM.
The French journalist groups said today, “We understand the desire to return to real world premieres, but under the conditions that have been announced, the consequences would be harmful for the quality of media coverage, and thus for the image of the festival and the festival itself.”