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"We are witnessing some sort of worldwide trend towards neo-realism”

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Edouard Waintrop • Artistic director, Directors’ Fortnight

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- Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Directors’ Fortnight, breaks down his 2017 selection

Edouard Waintrop • Artistic director, Directors’ Fortnight
(© Quinzaine des réalisateurs)

We met up with Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Directors’ Fortnight, the 49th edition of which will take place between 18-28 May as part of the 70th Cannes Film Festival (read the article here).

Cineuropa: How did you put together your 2017 selection?
Edouard Waintrop: We don’t set out with fixed ideas; we choose films that elicit a response, that move us, that we love – and there might be 100 different types of these. For example, we didn’t set out with the idea of making this the year of American cinema because of Trump, but maybe as a result of this particular political scenario, we were more sensitive to what we saw in some US films. We also noticed that we have many films that could be classified as neo-realist: two of the American films, all three of the Italian films, the Portuguese one, the three documentaries and even the Lithuanian movie.

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This year’s selection confirms your attachment to comedies.
This year, there were a lot of them. I have to say, we didn’t expect Claire Denis to produce a comedy on language, on how men try to take control in relationships. With Let the Sunshine In [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
we follow the story of a woman who likes to think she is free but who finds herself having to deal with a succession of hilarious modern Neanderthals. It’s a wonderful surprise and the cast clearly had a great time making it.

I expected a comedy from filmmaker Carine Tardieu, but I didn’t expect her to have reached the level of maturity demonstrated in Just to Be Sure [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. She has a very particular way of depicting feelings and contradictions, leading to situations that are both ludicrous and amusing, and her actors are on top form. Even the French documentary Nothingwood [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Sonia Kronlund is actually a comedy. On the one hand it’s terrible because it takes place in Afghanistan, of all places, and the war is omnipresent. But it’s also about cinema and how we make cinema in such a context. And when we see the type of films that are produced by the lead character in Nothingwood, we feel anything but sadness!

Claire Denis, Philippe Garrel and Bruno Dumont... You have all the big names of French cinema!
When you’re faced with a work as beautiful as Lover for a Day [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, it’s impossible not to select it. As for Dumont, he has taken a radical new direction with his musical, Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bruno Dumont
film profile
]
. The cinematography is fantastic, and the saintly apparitions are absolutely incredible – at times it’s like you’re in another world. It will be a shock for the audience! Garrel and Dumont are two brilliant visual artists of the cinema world, but they’re also storytellers. It’s a real gift having them here for the Directors’ Fortnight.

Italy has a very strong presence, with three films in the competition.
There is a new type of Italian cinema that is thriving right now, and the three filmmakers that we have selected this year – Jonas Carpignano with A Ciambra [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Jonas Carpignano
film profile
]
, Leonardo Di Costanzo with Intruder [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and Roberto De Paolis with Pure Hearts [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto De Paolis
film profile
]
– are three very different artists with three very individual styles, but they are all equally committed to conveying real life. We are witnessing some sort of worldwide trend towards neo-realism, which can also be seen in the Portuguese film The Nothing Factory [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Pedro Pinho
film profile
]
by Portuguese director Pedro Pinho, which tells the story of a group of workers struggling against a factory relocation using an incredible range of cinematic genres: it’s practically a thriller at the beginning, becoming intimate, political, social, taking a brief detour into musical comedy, etc. Likewise, we didn’t expect to find Lithuania’s Sharunas Bartas straying into the field of neo-realism in Frost [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sharunas Bartas
film profile
]
. He has a gift for talking about war, an approach that you don’t often come across, except in American films, like those of Samuel Fuller.

What about other European cinema?
We saw some very good films from the Nordic countries, and one Norwegian film, one Swedish film and one Icelandic film were very close to being selected. In terms of German movies, Thierry Frémaux chose a few, but there weren’t really many others. From Spain, there were two very interesting films, but we didn’t select them in the end. As for England, there were a lot of rather interesting titles, but we didn’t choose those either.

Were there any tensions between the Directors’ Fortnight and the other Cannes selection teams?
We always wage war on one another, but this year it went rather well. One of Cannes’ strong points is that there is common ground over which we can fight, unlike Berlin, where the sections are very much compartmentalised. This contention creates an energy that you don’t often find elsewhere. With regard to Charles Tesson and the Critics’ Week, things generally go well. For the Official Competition selection, there were films that Thierry would have liked but that went to us, and films that went to Un Certain Regard that we would have liked. It’s all part of the game. But things went smoothly for the remainder of the films, and we also discussed some general issues affecting the Cannes Film Festival, because problems do exist, and one new problem is Netflix.

On this point, what exactly is your position on platforms?
We don’t really know where we are going and how we are going to deal with it. It’s best to keep an open mind for the time being. Next year, if there is a brilliant film by Martin Scorsese that has been submitted for the Cannes Film Festival, with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, what are we going to do? Can we negotiate with Netflix? Today they’re saying, “No films for cinema venues,” but what will they say tomorrow? What can we refuse to accept purely because it’s Netflix? I’ve discussed this a lot with some very anti-Netflix American filmmakers, whose names I won’t reveal so as to avoid them being blacklisted, and who are putting pressure on us to take a hard line against Netflix. But when we select a film that isn’t initially a Netflix film, as was the case with Bushwick this year, but then the film is bought by Netflix before its premiere at Cannes, what can we do? Tell the filmmaker to go home? What we need to remember is that balance has always been key; there are now, of course, changes in this balance, but it is still a balance nonetheless. We, as viewers, will always need cinemas, but I also fully understand that it is thanks to these new platforms that those who live deep in the countryside are now able to watch certain films where previously this was not possible. It will be a case of waiting to see how it evolves; of putting our heads together and keeping a balanced view. Above all, we should avoid throwing insults around because it will only further divide the two sides, and at a time when the situation is in a constant state of flux, it would be wise to be flexible. If we do wish to show resistance, we need to do so intelligently, rather than simply rebelling, and maybe reduce the time between the film screening at a festival and its availability via a platform.

(Translated from French by Michelle Mathery)

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