Even before getting down to their job of selecting the Palme d’Or winner, the 2010 Cannes jury is making headlines, for political, not artistic, reasons. Firstly, there are only two female jury members. Then there’s the matter of absent juror Jafar Panahi, who’s currently detained in Iran. Fitting, then, that jury head Tim Burton says the judging will be done with “openness” and “compassion”.
The Cannes Film Festival has been called many things. South African filmmaker John Barker once said it’s a “fairground for filmmakers”. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter yesterday, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director, who is here as an actor in ée, called it a “circus” that “you have to have fun with”. And this year’s head of the jury, eccentric director Tim Burton, says it’s like a “fantasy movie”, where he watches films he wouldn’t ordinarily make or see.
The Alice in Wonderland director presides over a panel of filmmakers and actors to decide which film will succeed Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon as the recipient of the coveted main prize of the festival – the Palme d’Or. The Feature Film jury includes Alberto Barbera, the director of Italy’s National Museum of Cinema; Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno; French filmmaker Emmanuel Carrere; actor Benicio Del Toro; Spanish director Victor Erice; French composer Alexandre Desplat; Indian director Shekhar Kapur, British actress Kate Bekinsale; and in absentia Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is being detained by security forces in his homeland for being a vocal supporter of the opposition leader.
The jury members yesterday expressed their wish for Panahi to be freed. They also addressed some of the other issues at this year’s festival, including the lack of female directors in the competition selection. Beckinsale and Mezzogiorno didn’t seem to mind being the only two female film stars on the jury. Beckinsale quipped, “I’m used to this situation; I have two brothers. I am not afraid of boys.” Kapur, who directed Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, added that directing a movie was about more than one’s gender: “If you haven’t got the masculine and the feminine within you, then you’re not a true filmmaker.”
But the issue still seems to sit. Kristin Scott Thomas, who is the festival’s Mistress of Ceremonies, said, in an interview with the Daily Mail, that she’s disappointed there aren’t more female directors with work on show at the festival. She said: “I think that’s a pity. You don’t choose a film because it’s made by a woman, you choose it because it’s good. The Cannes film festival is about big-budget films but also remarkable films made in different political regimes by filmmakers with little resources.”
Burton says that he plans to run a loose ship as president of those deciding which remarkable film will scoop the prize. “You know where you have to get to, but you’re not sure how you’re going to get there,” he said, adding: “We’re all excited about going through the journey.” He said that they would be looking for films that surprised them and that they would “feel the films, and then discuss them intellectually and emotionally”. Openness and compassion are the watchwords he used: “I don’t think any of us like the word jury or judge,” he said. “We’re constantly being judged. We’ll be judged as judges.”
Burton had dinner with his fellow jurors on Tuesday – all except Kate Beckinsale, who arrived late because of the ash cloud – and cautioned that they should remain open “rather than becoming angry artists”.
By Nadia Neophytou
(Nadia Neophytou is an EWN reporter)
Read more: Cannes website