“My role is to sometimes talk to the press or to fight with policemen,” Cannes Delegate General Thierry Fremaux joked during a keynote this evening at the Göteborg Film Festival.
Fremaux had been making a comedic reference to his altercation with a local police officer on the pavement outside the Carlton Hotel at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The altercation — which went viral — was just one of the topics Fremaux touched on this evening in Göteborg during a keynote session with Swedish filmmaker and two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund.
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Concluding the description of his unique job title, Fremaux added: “We are really at the service of the artist, the press, the audience and the professionals. If those roles are well done, we are happy.”
The evening’s session was chaired by outgoing Göteborg head Jonas Holmberg, who quizzed the pair on their working relationship and what they believed the role of a film festival should be in the contemporary world of cinema. Both men agreed that film festivals, particularly Cannes, are and must continue to be a venue to highlight films. However, Fremaux added a caveat. He said film festivals are the final hurdle of a long and global film production chain.
“When we had a lack of female directors it was not our fault. It was the shape and the situation of world cinema. Now the situation is much, much better,” Fremaux said as an example. “Last year, in 2023 and 2021, we had two Palme d’Or films by female directors. Before that, for 73 years, only one female director won the Palme d’Or: Jane Campion with The Piano.”
He added: “We are a reflection. Of course, our choices and decisions create a different destiny for this or that film.”
Continuing on contemporary hot-button topics, Fremaux discussed Netflix’s continued absence from the Cannes Film Festival. Two films by the streamer (Ojka and The Meyerowitz Stories) played at Cannes in 2017. Since then, the festival has made clear that movies have to abide by France’s long theatrical window to play in Competition. Fremaux has invited Netflix to play Out of Competition, but the streamer hasn’t wanted to send movies if the festival‘s most prestigious strand is off-limits.
Fremaux said he invited Ojka and The Meyerowitz Stories to play in a competition to promote a dialogue between exhibitors and streamers.
“For us, it was important that this discussion could take place in Cannes, and it took place quite violently,” Fremaux said. “But it was a way for us to create a dialog with the platforms.”
Fremaux added that he believes there is still a significant artistic difference between films made for streamers compared to films produced and released in cinemas. He used the example of filmmaker David Fincher to explain his views.
“He’s still a great filmmaker,” Fremaux said of Fincher. “But he doesn’t exist at the same level in our hearts and minds as in the past. He wants to work alone, quietly, making his films for platforms. It’s a different world. We miss him. We want him back in our world.”
Fincher’s latest feature, The Killer, produced for Netflix, debuted at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
Fremaux, however, did not entirely condemn the work of streamers. Keen observers will remember that Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers Of The Flower Moon, which screened at Cannes, was partly an Apple pic. Fremaux said Apple’s strategy for Scorsese’s Killers and Ridley Scott’s latest, Napolean, were the best examples of the work streamers could be doing.
“What Apple has done with the Martin Scorsese film and the Ridley Scott film, they have made a lot of money at the box office, and now the films are on the platforms. Which to me is the perfect reflection of our times,” he said.
Östlund, the current honorary chair of Göteborg, a role previously held by Ingmar Bergman and Roy Andersson, was uncharacteristically soft-spoken and reserved throughout the session but he did share a provocative update about his next feature, The Entertainment System Is Down.
The Swedish filmmaker told the audience he plans to create “the biggest walkout in the history of the Cannes Film Festival” with one scene he has written for the pic.
As previously revealed, The Entertainment System Is Down is a social satire that will be set on a long-haul flight that descends into deadly chaos when the inflight entertainment system goes down.
“It could be a good film,” Frémaux joked wryly of the movie.
The Göteborg Film Festival runs until Feb 4.
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