Magazine article Variety

Who Do Cannes' Toppers Answer To?

Magazine article Variety

Who Do Cannes' Toppers Answer To?

Article excerpt

PARIS

When Cannes dropped the word "international" from its title a few years back, no one questioned the fest's global reach - it will showcase films from more than 30 countries this year. But behind the scenes the venerable Gallic fest remains a fundamentally French organization.

French men and, to a lesser extent, women, have always been at the fest's helm. It's hard to imagine Cannes Wring an outsider to manage its affairs, as Venice did when it recruited German Moritz de Hadeln a few years ago.

For good measure, the French state - via the Culture Ministry - and the festival's near all-Gallic board of administration are there to ensure that the nonprofit festival remains forever French.

Apart from one foreign member, Spaniard Andres Vicente Gomez (a producer and also head of international film fests org FIAJPF), the board's 30-odd members come from a dizzying array of Gallic industry orgs, government and regional authority reps and even the Communist-leaning CGT showbiz union.

"My organization has been involved since Cannes began," says CGT rep Jean Voirin, describing the festival's association status as "a particularly French kind of organization that is a part of our culture and our history."

The board meets four or five times a year, one of those gatherings taking place during the first weekend of the festival, inside the Palais des Festivals.

"We talk about how opening night went and other matters that might come up regarding the ongoing festival," says Voirin.

Earlier in the year, the board also gets a say-so on such matters as the short list for jury president, placing suggested names in order of preference, and the festival poster.

"A couple of years ago they came up with a poster that was really awful and the board nixed it," recalls another member.

But when push comes to shove, between the Culture Minister, the board and Cannes prexy Gilles Jacob, who really calls the shots?

That all depends.

In times of peace, the French state and the board tend to leave well alone, allowing Jacob, artistic director Thierry Fremaux and managing director Catherine Demier to run the f esti vaL

"Gilles Jacob is the captain onboard that ship," says one member who would only speak under anonymity. That person points out no one raised an eyebrow when Jacob hired and then fired Olivier Barot, who for six months was in training to take over as artistic director, nor later when he went on to appoint Fremaux. …

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