French Presidential Candidates Woo Cinema World

Screen International, April 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

French Presidential Candidates Woo Cinema World


France goes to the polls this Sunday for the first round of presidential elections. In a campaign dominated by the economy,immigration and unemployment, candidates have also found time to court the cinema world too.

In May 1968, Claude Lelouch, together with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Louis Malle, stormed the Cannes Film Festival in an act of solidarity with the left-wing student protests of the time, closing it down.

Last Sunday, Lelouch, now 74, took to the stage at a political rally in Paris in support of centre-right French President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the first round of presidential elections on April 22.

"Looking at the script for the next five years, we're going to need a really good director. I'm convinced that director is Nicolas," the veteran filmmaker told the crowd gathered in the Place de la Concorde.

It is unlikely that Sarkozy will be the "director" controlling France's fate for the next five years.

Polls forecast socialist candidate François Hollande is set to win a likely second round run-off on May 6, sweeping the Socialists to power for the first time in 17 years.

Importance of cinema

But Lelouche's presence at Sunday's rally is just one example of the cinema world's high profile in French politics.

The days of a leftwing, politically engaged cinema scene -- personified by the likes of Godard and Truffaut -- may be a thing of the past but the French film world still has political clout... especially when it comes to defending the cultural exception-inspired subsidies and quotas underpinning it.

In an election dominated by the economy, immigration and unemployment, the leading candidates have also taken time to tackle issues worrying the film industry.

"We might complain to the contrary but politicians in France talk a lot more about the culture than elsewhere in the world," says Pascal Rogard, head of the Society of Authors and Composer of Dramatic Works (SACD) - France's equivalent to the Writers Guild of America.

Last week, with ten days to go to the first round, Sarkozy stopped by SACD for a "working lunch" with filmmakers Lelouche, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Jean-Claude Carrière, Gérard Krawczyk, Radu Mihaileanu and Bertrand Tavernier.

Hollande, meanwhile, put in a high-profile appearance at the Paris Book Fair in March, followed by a star-studded evening devoted to the Socialists' cultural agenda at the Cirque d'Hiver theatre, attended by singer Juliette Greco, actor Michel Piccoli and directors Abdellatif Kechiche and Beineix.

"The French are very attached to culture," explains Rogard "Any politician whose manifesto does not include culture will not get very far."

Florence Gastaud, managing director of the Association of Authors, Directors and Producers (L'ARP), suggests this attentiveness is also born out of a sort of "fear" of filmmakers. …

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