The nine jurors that will decide in 13 days the winners of the 74th Cannes Film Festival know that they are facing a historic moment: at least two of them have repeated this expression during their presentation at the press conference prior to tonight’s opening gala. And leading the wild group, Spike Lee, who would have already presided, if it had been held, the jury of the 73rd edition. Of course, the New York-based filmmaker, who in 2018 presented at the competition Infiltrated in the KKKlan and he won the Grand Jury Prize, he has been in his sauce: three or four political statements before deciding that he was not going to talk much more, because there were nine filmmakers, “and all the same”, responding to the press. Although he explained about the current state of the industry: “The rooms and digital platforms must coexist. There was a time when it was thought that television would kill cinema, so this fear is not new, but cyclical ”.
Lee (Atlanta, Georgia, 64 years old), who has been to the tournament numerous times (”I remember one time I flew from Nice to New York to watch a Knicks game in an NBA Finals and came back, by the way, they lost ”), has underlined the racism present in today’s society. “When you see brother Eric Garner, when you see King George Floyd, killed, lynched, I think of Radio Raheem [el personaje de Haz lo que debas (1989), el segundo largo del cineasta y el primero que se proyectó en Cannes]. And thirty-odd fucking years later, blacks are still being hunted like animals. ” On the current world he expanded: “The world is ruled by gangsters. Agent orange [así se refiere a Donald Trump, para no nombrarle], the type of Brazil and Putin. They do what they want, without morals or scruples. And that’s the world we live in. We have to raise our voices against gangsters like that ”. The contest is surrendered to Lee: even the official poster is a nod to the poster that accompanied the launch of his first film, How Darling.
Joining Lee were the French actress and director Melánie Laurent, the Brazilian film critic and director Kleber Mendonça Filho, the French-Negalese director Mati Diop (who in Cannes gave the bell with Atlantic), Korean actor Song Kang-ho (the usual protagonist of Bong Joon-ho’s cinema, and therefore of Parasites), Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, American actress and director Maggie Gyllenhaal, French singer Mylène Farmer and French actor Tahar Rahim. Both Mendonça and Gyllenhaal confessed that they had not entered a movie theater for almost two years, and Rahim stressed that he had not talked about cinema for a long time.
When they remembered how they received the invitation, Hausner said with amusement that days before she had seen the announcement of the program: “It was full of titles that I wanted to see, and I was pointing at them … Shortly after the email came to me and it was amazing.” They will evaluate 23 films, although they feel that this will not be a normal Cannes: it is the first after the pandemic, with a majority of women on the jury, with a black president for the first time … “It is a historic edition, and that adds to the honor of being part of this group, ”commented Laurent. Song thought that this edition could not be held due to the pandemic, so for the Korean being in Cannes is “almost a miracle.” Rahim, whose first major film, A prophet, competed in the 2009 edition, he defined the contest as “the place where a child’s dream of being an actor can come true.”
Persecution of LGBT activists
The final stretch of the press conference was focused on politics and the social. In response to a reflection by a Georgian journalist on the persecution suffered by LGTBi activists and how their government tramples on civil rights, Mendonça recalled the suffering generated by the covid in a country governed by a politician like Jair Bolsonaro, and Gyllenhaal stressed: “The cinema has always been involved in political issues, and not just consciously. We have to be attentive to the messages that reach our hearts and minds ”.
And, about cinema made by women, the New Yorker reflected: “We make different films, we tell stories in different ways. And for that, to pull those stories forward, sometimes you have to use extra muscle. ” Laurent, who has combined a great career as an actress and director, both in fiction and documentaries, recalled that in this edition the contest has made an effort for the ecological, for recycling and for film about the environment. “This is wonderful news, but let’s look further: let the planet breathe and women breathe.” For this reason, Diop closed the press conference like this: “Let’s not accept the condescension of what is politically correct, I want you to choose our cinema for its value.”