Paolo Moretti • Artistic Director, Cannes' Directors' Fortnight
"Films which aren’t simply products, but which are actually directors’ visions"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Paolo Moretti, the new artistic director of Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, talks about the choices made during his first experience of leading this selection process
In a much anticipated interview, Paolo Moretti, the new artistic director of Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight (the 51st edition of which will unfold from 15 to 25 May as part of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival), talks about his selection for 2019.
Cineuropa: This is your first year as artistic director of Directors’ Fortnight. Were you given a brief by the SRF [the French society of film directors] and how did you approach this role?
Paolo Moretti: There was no particular brief. The SRF simply wanted the Directors’ Fortnight to continue to evolve and to make a positive contribution to the overall Festival offering, while preserving the original identity of this section, which is to bring something new and complementary to Cannes, to rise to the ongoing challenge of moving with the times and to ensure the section remains relevant so that it can properly fulfil its role.
Why have you chosen to present a greater number of full-length films (24 excluding Special Screenings) than in recent times?
I wanted to make the most of the wealth of films submitted to us. There are always too many that we like and that we can’t include in the programme. But I’ve tried to present the widest spectrum possible of contemporary film creation, in accordance with the Directors’ Fortnight mission. I didn’t start out with the idea of presenting more films, it was more that these films forged themselves a place.
At first glance, your selection seems very diverse in terms of genres…
There’s comedy, horror, political sci-fi film, and a documentary that’s very deeply rooted in reality, Blow It To Bits, by Lech Kowalski; there are wholly visionary flashes of brilliance, such as The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers, which will perhaps go on to form an entirely new genre; highly unique outlooks on geographies, as in Tlamess by the Tunisian Ala Eddine Slim; an Afghan film – which is a rare thing – with a very modern outlook in the form of The Orphanage by Shahrbanoo Sadat; really contemporary naturalism in Alice and the Mayor by Nicolas Pariser, which explores political dynamics, etc… It all comes together to form a very wide spectrum of writing.
16 of the 24 full-length films selected are European films, hailing from France, Scandinavia, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Latvia…
It’s good to see that European creativity, in all its diversity, is alive and kicking. It’s not just a quantitative matter of production; I think it also stems from a European propensity to support particularly risky projects. That’s the field that the Directors’ Fortnight naturally gravitates towards, so it’s a real joy to see that there’s a wealth of films which aren’t simply products, but which are actually directors’ visions, which, I hope, will also have commercial potential; because Directors’ Fortnight is supposed to build a bridge between visionary breakthroughs and possibilities for them to demonstrate real market potential, within the context of a festival such as Cannes, which is a first-class platform.
For 16 of the 24 filmmakers you have selected, it will be their first time their work is showcased on the Croisette. Did this stem from a desire to rejuvenate the event?
It wasn’t intentional. The interest these films have generated, and their modernity, were the only criteria taken into account. It was only at the end that I realised what had happened. But it might also be the result of a certain tendency which I believe links in with the mission of the Directors’ Fortnight. Cannes is the biggest festival in the world and, in my mind, being given the opportunity to present a film here is a huge thing for a filmmaker. As such, we will be very happy to support these début directors on the Croisette, which will be a great boost to their careers and will allow them to grow. Although, not all of them are young talents, such as Lech Kowalski, for example, who already enjoys cult director status all around the world.
How did you find the competition between the different Cannes selections?
It’s all very normal. We can only rejoice over the fact that a film which interests us is also of interest to others. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no particular hierarchy between the sections, just different possibilities. If we invite a film, it’s because it can contribute to a wider discussion that we are trying to put across with our selection. But I can fully understand why there might be a lot of envy and attention surrounding a particular film. Whether a film goes to the Official Selection, to Critics’ Week or to the Directors’ Fortnight, it shouldn’t be seen as any kind of rivalry or contest. The fact that some films wait for a response from the Official Selection is completely normal, because the Official Selection is a wonderful film promotion machine; and it’s normal to think carefully about the platform your film should be presented on. The director is involved, of course, as is the sales agent, the distributer, the producer…; and there are many voices, many visions, many opinions. You might find that a film falls more within the spirit of the Directors’ Fortnight than it does any other, but there’s no simple recipe, no clear-cut idea, because it depends on many factors. All I can do is watch a film, picture it within our selection, invite the director and wait. If he or she decides to go elsewhere, we have to accept it because, ultimately, we are there to serve these films.
Wounds is the only Netflix film to be screened on the Croisette this year. Why did you choose this film?
First of all, we had eyes on this film before it became a Netflix product. Negotiations and agreements with the producer and the director (who I’ve followed since his previous film) were already underway. A fortnight before the selection process ended, the film was bought by Netflix, when we’d already been in discussions with the film team for four months. So, in a certain sense, it happened by accident. But speaking more generally, I think that watching a film in a cinema and watching a film via an online platform are two different experiences, but the two aren’t necessarily enemies. Their dynamic isn’t too far removed from what has happened with video cassettes or DVDs. We just have to find an intelligent solution so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on a heavily structured system such as that of France, and that is a matter that is definitely up for discussion. But we’re called the Directors’ Fortnight and our mission is to promote the work of directors. So, in the meantime, while we do want to take part in a conversation which I hope will lead to positive developments as regards the presence of Netflix, we choose to show the work of directors, because that’s what’s at the heart of the Fortnight’s mission, and we don’t want them to suffer as a result of this situation. We show the films, but we don’t pretend there’s not a problem.
How will you decide whether your first year has been a success?
That will be up to the public and the professionals to decide, and to say whether it’s been an interesting Fortnight or not. But from the point of view of the Directors’ Fortnight, success means to create meeting opportunities and life for the films presented; to provide momentum for certain movements and encourage evolving outlooks. We’ll see whether this challenge is met.
(Translated from French)
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