It has been a little more than two years since the last Cannes festival, when Parasite, by Korean director Bong Joon-ho, which would famously later go on to win the Oscar for best film, won the prestigious top prize, the Palme d’Or.
After a year "off" due to the health crisis, the festival’s 74th edition starts this Tuesday and will end on Saturday 17 July with the awarding of prizes chosen by a jury led by American filmmaker Spike Lee. Ahead of the official opening, organisers and film industry professionals are already on site and working hard. Among them is Jani Thiltges, the producer from Samsa Film, who is living it up with two films in the running.
Jani Thiltges: It's rare for any producer. You can take the word 'Luxembourg' out of the sentence (he smiles). And it's exceptional! There's no other word for it. Afterwards, people don't always realise it, but it's a lot of work too. You don't just climb the (famous red carpet) steps. There is a lot of work to do with the protocol, to see which VIPs will be present, who we are inviting to the dinner... We also have to discuss with the marketing people, international press attachés, media for the French market... I arrived this Monday. The weather is nice and warm. But it's mainly meetings at the moment.
I won't hide the fact that there is a gap to fill in the financing of Where is Anne Frank. We've taken a lot of risks on this project and we're playing for big money...
Very well, of course! When we show the films to the festival officials, which is usually a month before the selection is announced, we always get a reaction in return. It's 'We like it a lot', 'We like it' or a rejection. If you don't get the latter, then you know that you are still in the running for a place. So when we saw that Joachim Lafosse's Les Intranquilles was included in the official selection, we knew that it was still possible for our other production, Where is Anne Frank. It's an animated film and there are very few of them in Cannes. We had to wait a few days, but the good news finally came.
JT: Being in the official selection means going up the red carpet, being screened in the main hall in front of press from all over the world... It's the kind of thing that is priceless! It's going to give huge exposure to this project, which we've been working on for five years. Not being in competition just means we can't expect to go home with an award. For the rest, the sounding board is the same. Let’s say it was a disappointment for a little while. That's all. Afterwards, just being present with two films at Cannes took over. This is something that may not happen again in my career…
It's the ultimate dream! Even more than being nominated for an Oscar.
Yes, to be nominated is to win in a way! Imagine, there are only 25 films in the official selection and among them, there are four or five that should have already been present last year. And we have two films in the remaining contingent. This is a blessing! And this in Cannes, which is the festival of film lovers. It's the ultimate dream! Even more than being nominated for an Oscar. It almost makes you forget all the problems we had to face just to get here.
We hope that Ari Folman's animated film, on which we are the only producers, will really explode. It has the potential. And that, in the process, we can sell it well to the film market. I won't hide the fact that there is a gap in the financing. We took a lot of risk on this project and we're playing for big money... So being in Cannes is already very positive for us. At another festival, the exposure would have been less important, as well as the sales, no doubt.
We hope that Ari Folman's animated film, on which we are the only producers, will really explode.
Afterwards, for Joachim Lafosse's film, where we are co-producers with France and Belgium, we really hope to win a prize…
JT: That's what they say, yes. But many things are said... Afterwards, it's true that it's a scenario that has often been seen in the history of Cannes. If you come late in the programme and your film is successful, which is the case here, it stays in the minds of the jury... On the other hand, some prefer to be programmed very early. So that they have more time to sell their film. In any case, as the festival decides on the programme, we have to take what comes.
JT: For Les Intranquilles it will be in October. And the following month for Where is Anne Frank.
JT: In the screening rooms, the capacity is set at 100%. Only people who have been vaccinated twice or those who can show a recent negative PCR test are admitted to the festival. For the [rest of the festival], it's a mask and compulsory social distancing. Except on the red carpet. I've been on the red carpet before, but this time will be special for Where is Anne Frank. It will be my first time as the main producer. A small reward after working so hard on this project.