Back in 2001, Terry Gilliam wore a T-shirt to the Cannes jury press conference that read “Can be bribed.” As he sensibly explained, “I think that will knock through all the confusion and angst one suffers when trying to choose the best. I am going to choose the one whose producer pays me the most money.”
For the record, that’s the last time anything interesting happened at a meet-the-jury press conference here. This year’s jury members were so careful to have “no preconceptions” and to be “open-minded” about the films that it seemed they shared the same script.
The jury includes actors (Ewan McGregor, Emmanuelle Devos and Diane Kruger), directors (Alexander Payne, Andrea Arnold and Raoul Peck), a Palestinian actress/director (Hiam Abbass) and a fashion designer (Jean Paul Gaultier). They are led by 58-year-old jury president Nanni Moretti ( The Son’s Room), who has brought six films to Cannes over the years.
These are the ones who will pick the Palme d’Or and other prizes out of 22 films in competition. But Haitian director Raoul Peck, who was briefly his home country’s Minister of Culture in the 1990s, went out of his way to promise he wouldn’t do anything exciting. He had read, he said, a pre-Cannes article that deemed him “to be an activist.”
“I would like to assure everyone that this is not the case.”
Something interesting almost happened when British director Andrea Arnold was asked about the lack of women directors at this year’s festival. She almost took the bait, but backed off. “There are just not many women film directors,” she said. “Cannes is a small pocket that represents how it is out in the world.”
Ewan McGregor added that Cannes was “an amazing platform” and a “huge springboard” for first-time directors, though, as with women, there are no first-time or unknown directors represented in these year’s competition.
Perhaps Moretti doesn't really favour all these displays of transparency. He compared the Cannes jury to the conclave of cardinals who pick the Roman Catholic Pope, the subject of his competition comedy from last year, We Have a Pope, (which opens in Canada on June 2.)
He acknowledged he had trouble adjusting to the recent Cannes practice of having a press conference after the awards, where the jury defends its decisions. A few years ago, he said, “there were two remaining taboos in the world – the silence after the awards and the conclave. Now it's just the conclave.”
Still, Moretti promised to be as open-minded as ever at the final conference. “Perhaps we’ll say something diplomatic and bland,” he said. “Perhaps not.”