Cannes Chief Thierry Frémaux Talks ‘Annette’, The Films That Got Away, Covid Protocols & The Crowd-Pleaser Yet To Be Announced

Thierry Fremaux AP

After Covid put paid to the 2020 edition of Cannes, festival chief Thierry Frémaux yesterday was finally able to announce a lineup of movies that will play to audiences on the Riviera. We spoke to the veteran curator about the ongoing Covid challenge, this year’s strong lineup, the ones that got away and surprises still to come.

From July 6-17 it will be what he coins a film “reunion.” Importantly, he notes that this is an international event that comes with its share of responsibility given its global nature and the ongoing state of the pandemic, “especially the responsibility that everything goes well,” he tells Deadline. “The epidemic is not yet beaten, so it’s going to be important that we show that we are responsible, reasonable and joyous.”

Here’s our talk with Frémaux.

DEADLINE: This is a very strong lineup. It’s interesting that there are a lot of French films in the Competition…

FREMAUX: Yes, but that’s happened before. It was almost two years of selecting films and French cinema was strong; Israeli cinema, Chinese cinema, Russian cinema were strong. We almost at a certain time added more films — there may even be more films. This is a Cannes of reunion. It will be a Cannes where it will be possible for everyone to experience the joy of seeing one another again.

DEADLINE: I wondered given the current context and the uncertainties surrounding travel whether it was a deliberate decision to include a lot of French titles, knowing their filmmakers would be certain to attend…

FREMAUX: I think that the people who showed us their films didn’t ask themselves any question other than to present their films. And now the films have been accepted and we’re going to try to ensure they can come.

DEADLINE: Which Competition film do you think might surprise audiences?

Annette Cannes

 FREMAUX: Ahh, don’t count on me to distinguish one film from another. That wouldn’t be very courteous and it’s simply that each film is there, and not only in Competition – everywhere (in the Official Selection) — because they deserve to be there. The only thing I can say, because it’s the opening film, is that Leos Carax’s film (Annette) is a good symbol: he is Franco-American, it’s produced by the French also with American money, it was shot in the U.S. and it fits exactly within the spirit of Cannes: We go to Cannes to see works of art and Annette is a work of art by one of the most important filmmakers of his generation.

DEADLINE: Are there other films that you would have liked to have had on the Croisette?

FREMAUX: Our tradition is not to talk about films we didn’t get, but I know there are films that weren’t ready and that if they are ready, we’ll see in the fall at my colleagues’ festivals in Venice, Saint Sebastian, Telluride, New York, London and it will be with great happiness. I think that cinematographic creativity is at a very high level right now.

DEADLINE: Did you try to get Jane Campion and Paolo Sorrentino’s Netflix movies to the festival this year?

FREMAUX: Sorrentino’s movie is not at all ready. Jane Campion’s movie could have been ready, Andrew Dominik’s film [Blonde] could have been ready — it’s beautiful, I saw it — and I invited those films Out of Competition. Netflix doesn’t want to come to Cannes, but I invited them anyway and alas… It’s important, it’s not us refusing Netflix movies, it’s Netflix who doesn’t want or can’t… They want to come in Competition but films that are part of the Competition must be released (theatrically) in France.

DEADLINE: Do you think this may change at some point?

Netflix Netflix

 FREMAUX: Globally, I think yes, it is going to change one day. I think that all over the world, the question of windows, of the protection of theatrical, of the appearance of platforms — all of this is a fundamental phenomenon  of the world of the moving image and we want Cannes to be  in some way at the heart of that. But, I’d like that Netflix is also at the heart of that. However, Netflix protects its system, its subscribers, its clients. I would have loved that they come Out of Competition also to show the quality of their work, the quality of their productions. But to see the quality of their productions, you have to go to Netflix. Fortunately, I’m a subscriber and I love Netflix, but my job is to show films. I would also love to show Netflix films.

DEADLINE: What can you tell us about the Hollywood film on the beach? When are you going to announce it?

FREMAUX: Soon, soon. We didn’t want to announce it today because we knew that people would be particularly interested in the competition, etc. It’s a film of pleasure and entertainment for the people on the beach, it’s popular cinema. And, you’ll see it’s going to be pretty cool.

DEADLINE: Okay, do you regret remarks you made recently calling it a “planetary” film?

FREMAUX: No, because a blockbuster is at the heart of it American cinema and American cinema is planetary.

DEADLINE: Everyone was immediately thinking what sci-fi movie it could be…

FREMAUX: Because of the planets? Really? No, it’s not that.

DEADLINE: Are you happy with the number of female directors in Competition?  

Julia Ducournau
Julia Ducournau Michael Buckner/Deadline

 FREMAUX: We shouldn’t only calculate the competition, it’s the whole official selection. For example, there are only four in competition, but there are eight in Un Certain Regard and that’s the young cinema. That means the future is open for young female directors. And, if you look at the French films in competition there are three women and three men. That’s maybe a sign of the future.

DEADLINE: Since this edition is happening in July, there are going to be a lot of people on vacation and you mentioned inviting some of the public to screenings. Do you know what that’s going to look like?

FREMAUX: We’re going to get to work on that. It’s a special Cannes because we’re going to do it in July and there will already be people on vacation. We hope, as much as possible, that the festival will also be able to benefit — and without disturbing the professionals, but as there will be fewer professionals, we are thinking it’s now or never that holidaymakers and locals in Cannes can benefit.

DEADLINE: What are you hearing about the likely quarantine and entry requirements for those from the UK? At present, it doesn’t seem workable that UK nationals could enter France to attend the festival, do you think it’s going to get better?

THIERRY FREMAUX: Yes, yes, of course. We mustn’t speak at all about today, we must project ourselves into the month of July. The information we’re getting is positive and a little more positive each week. We are calmly awaiting the government’s position on the UK and other countries and even countries that are considered red zones.

DEADLINE: Covid restrictions are lifting across France on June 30, so Cannes screenings will be able to be 100% full, is that right?

FREMAUX: Yes, absolutely. It’s 100%, but there will be masks. This summer there is the possibility that we can remove masks outdoors. On the red carpet, the artists and the film teams, if they are socially distanced from the photographers, will be able to take their masks off. We’ll see how we go little by little. Either way, the epidemic isn’t over and everyone has to be responsible and reasonable.

DEADLINE: Do you have an idea of the percentage of filmmakers who may or may not be able to make it? Or are you expecting most people to be there?

The French Dispatch
The French Dispatch Searchlight Pictures

 FREMAUX: I think the majority of filmmakers will be there. You know, we also invited all the people who were part of last year’s selection to come. And, save for those who have scheduling issues, everything looks good for the moment.

DEADLINE: Are you expecting the main cast of Wes Anderson’s movie?

FREMAUX: Not everyone because each has their own planning, there are other films shooting, but yes, yes, according to what I understand a big part of the cast will be there — not just the French.

DEADLINE: Are there any coordinated screenings of the films in major cities? We’d heard there may be some screenings put on in conjunction with Cannes in Paris, London, New York etc…  

FREMAUX: We are going to work on that. As it’s a particular year and there are journalists that can’t travel, yes, I’d like that we can work on it.

DEADLINE: What is the status of your contract with Cannes? Do you have a multi-year mandate?

FREMAUX: In France it’s a bit special. I don’t have a mandate. I’m an employee. It’s the president that has a mandate.

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