The critiques had been gushing on the primary day of the 77th Cannes movie competition, as Barbie director Greta Gerwig took up her duties as this yr’s jury president. Pageant bosses variously hailed the American film-maker as a “cultural phenomenon”, a “heroine for contemporary occasions” and a lady who embodies “the way forward for cinema”. The fanfare was such that it virtually drowned out the discord because the world’s premier film showcase opened in opposition to a backdrop of threatened labour disputes and a rumoured report of alleged sexual abuse inside the trade.

“That is past a dream come true,” mentioned Gerwig, who presides over a nine-member jury that features Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and actors Lily Gladstone and Eva Inexperienced. “One of many favorite issues that I do is to look at cinema and focus on it – and now I’m attending to do it with essentially the most great minds for 10 complete days. I’m nonetheless in shock that I’m right here.”

Gerwig, 40, makes historical past as the primary feminine American director to function a Cannes jury president. She started her profession as an actor within the low-budget “mumblecore” motion of US cinema earlier than directing the coming-of-age drama Girl Fowl and the acclaimed 2019 adaptation of Little Girls. The runaway success of 2023’s $1bn-earning Barbie, nevertheless, has made her the unofficial spokesperson for feminine illustration in Hollywood and the movie trade at massive.

“I’ve been making films for nearly 20 years,” Gerwig mentioned. “And this has by no means not been a query: growing the variety of feminine administrators. In my lifetime it’s modified and gotten higher. Yearly I cheer as a result of there are extra ladies administrators. We’re not carried out but, however we’re actually shifting in the proper course. It’s all in regards to the lengthy arc of historical past.”

The choice to ask Gerwig has been considered an essential symbolic step for a competition which has previously drawn criticism for its perceived lack of assist for feminine expertise. It follows Cannes’ appointment of veteran producer Iris Knobloch, who’s now serving her second yr because the competition’s total president. “I really feel that defending the reason for ladies is a giant a part of my position,” Knobloch mentioned. “And if something, I really feel it a lot stronger than I did final yr. We are able to see the progress being made, with many extra movies [by women] coming in and extra ladies talking up. That’s why having Greta Gerwig as jury president is so essential. She is the way forward for cinema. However in fact there’s nonetheless an extended, lengthy option to go.”

Judged by the titles in the principle competitors, this guarantees to be a wholesome version of the Cannes movie competition, showcasing contemporary work from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, David Cronenberg, Yorgos Lanthimos and Andrea Arnold. Off-screen, nevertheless, the forecast is extra stormy. The schedule could but be disrupted by a strike by competition staff protesting in opposition to proposed modifications to French labour legal guidelines, whereas insiders are braced for the rumoured launch of a #MeToo report that can cost a number of outstanding actors and administrators with cases of historic sexual abuse. “Do not forget that these are solely rumours,” Knobloch mentioned. “Personally I consider that they’ll stay solely rumours – however we are going to see.”

Ultimately yr’s competition Thierry Frémaux, Cannes’ long-serving delegate-general, confronted criticism for rolling out the pink carpet for a disgraced Hollywood star, Johnny Depp. This yr, in contrast, Frémaux has been at pains to vow “a competition with out polemics and controversy”. It stays to be seen whether or not that ambition could be realised. Whether or not wittingly or not, Cannes seems to be drawn to hassle. Dissent and scandal are virtually a part of its DNA.

“The competition has at all times been a stage for debate and argument and liberal expression.” Knobloch admitted. “And I feel it ought to stay that method. Typically controversy could be good. An excessive amount of conformity turns into boring. However it’s all about getting the stability proper and maintaining the principle concentrate on cinema. Films are a mirrored image of society. They include and carry what’s occurring on the earth. Ideally it’s the flicks that immediate all the controversy and the politics. Ideally, in an ideal world, that will be the way it labored.”


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