Cannes Directors’ Fortnight has appointed former arthouse sales agent Julien Rejl as its new delegate general and tweaked its French name in a move to usher in a new era of inclusivity for the 60-year-old parallel sidebar.
Rejl replaces outgoing Directors’ Fortnight head Paolo Moretti who took up the role in September 2018, succeeding Edouard Waintrop who oversaw the section from 2012-2018.
France’s Directors’ Guild, or Société des Réalisateurs de Films (SRF), the body which oversees the sidebar, said his appointment had been voted on during a general assembly on June 25.
“His absolute passion, which is communicative, constructive and pluralist is what arthouse filmmakers will need in the years to come,” it said in a statement.
It added that the organisation had also voted to change its French name to La Quinzaine des Cinéastes, from its previous name of La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the meeting.
This move makes its banner title more gender-inclusive because the word ‘cinéaste’ in French can be both masculine and feminine, unlike réalisateur, which is the masculine form of director in French.
“The SRF voted on a new name in its desire to be more inclusive and focused in a decisive and resolute manner on cinema and cineastes,” the body said.
Rejl was previously head of distribution, acquisitions and international sales at French film company Capricci from 2010 and 2020.
While there, he handled films by the likes of Abel Ferrara, Hong Sangsoo, Albert Serra, Wang Bing, Tsaï Ming-Liang, Philippe Garrel, Monte Hellman, Corneliu Porumboiu, Jean-Charles Hue as well as emerging talents such as French genre director Just Philippot.
He was also a critic for French cinema magazine Sofilm and ran its annual film festival from 2015 to 2019.
Since leaving Capricci in 2020, he has been involved in a project to bring together the entire body of work by the late director Chantel Akerman in partnership with the Belgian Cinematheque.
Rejl’s successor Moretti had a difficult four years in the role. After his inaugural edition in 2019, the section was mothballed with the rest of Cannes in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then on its physical return in July 2021, there were murmurings that the selection had raised hackles within France’s powerful indie film sales sector for failing to be supportive of their slates.
The announcement of his departure during the Berlin Film Festival last February sparked surprise internationally but was less unexpected in France.
At the time of the announcement, the SRF said Moretti’s stepping down was part of a wider overhaul of the sidebar, but it remains to be seen what this might entail, beyond its French name change.
Launched in the wake of popular anti-establishment protests that shook France in 1969, the section distinguished itself in its first few decades as a place for daring new voices and boundary-pushing filmmakers.
This identity has been challenged in recent years with the main Cannes Film Festival’s decision to shift the focus of its Un Certain Regard section towards a similar type of cinema.
Rejl said the new French name for the section was part of a move to reaffirm its identity and support for directors.
“This new identity is firstly an opportunity to reaffirm the role and the engagement of the section created by and for cineastes in 1969,” he said.
“The fortnight has always been a welcoming place for filmmakers from all over the world, a place that privileges audacity and risk-taking, in both fiction and documentary, that is open to all cinephiles and all genres, in a friendly and not-competitive spirit.
“The selection is also the reflection, the echo chamber, of contemporary political, economic, social and ecological crises and struggles. In this perspective, the Fortnight demonstrates its unwavering support for all directors whose freedom of creation is today threatened, prevented or even simply unsupported,” he added.