Cannes Film Fest Chief Thierry Frémaux Quells Exit Chatter, But Confirms Offer

Thierry Fremaux
Marcel Hartmann

Lyon native Thierry Frémaux was the subject of a local blog post last week which led to some industry scuttlebutt that he was weighing an offer from the private sector. In his own statement on the Cannes website, the fest chief has now confirmed that an offer was made, but writes that he has not accepted and will continue with the organization he joined in 2000. He did not indicate for how long.

It is believed the approach came from either Canal Plus or Orange, the diversified multinational teleco with growing interests in entertainment. Frémaux said it was “accurate” that he had received a professional offer. But, after lengthy consideration, he said, “I have decided not to accept the offer and to continue in my position with the Festival de Cannes, as well as at the Institut Lumière in Lyon, serving the audiences, artists and professionals of the worldwide film industry.”

Frémaux noted that the interest shown him “did not leave me indifferent” and said, “Even if I feel some regret in turning down the opportunity that has been offered to me, it is with full confidence in the future of public cultural action that I maintain my commitment to my present duties.”

Well-liked by French and Hollywood execs, Frémaux put his stamp on Cannes with his first solo selection in 2001, notably including Shrek in the competition. He took over as General Delegate in 2007. His departure would be a seismic shift for the fest which nevertheless has recently gone through some changes. Cannes President Gilles Jacob exited in 2014 after nearly four decades and was replaced by Canal Plus co-founder and former President Pierre Lescure in what was seen as a smooth transition. The duo of Lescure and Frémaux ran their first festival together in 2015.

Frémaux added in his statement, “I wish to express my deep gratitude towards those who have paid me the compliment of believing that I could support them in their endeavors. I am not saying ‘no’ to them, but I am continuing to say ‘yes’ to the world’s greatest film festival, and it is my desire to continue to work towards its promising future, just as I wish to pursue the continued development of the Institut and the Festival Lumière.” Frémaux is director of the Lumière Institute in Lyon and co-founded the Festival there with Bertrand Tavernier.

In what appears to have been an intense decision-making process, Frémaux said he was guided and aided in his reflection by Lescure and Tavernier along with CNC chief Frédérique Bredin; Elysée Palace Cultural Adviser Audrey Azoulay; and Gérard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon.

Cannes runs this year from May 11-22 with George Miller heading up the jury.

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