Cannes 2024: Festival head Thierry Frémaux avoids polemical #MeToo and strike topics

Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival.
Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival. Copyright David Mouriquand
Copyright David Mouriquand
By David Mouriquand
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Cannes boss Thierry Frémaux responded to questions from the international press this Monday, a day before the official start of the 77th edition. Here’s what you need to know.

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In his annual pre-festival opening press conference, Cannes General Delegate Thierry Frémaux announced that he would like to “have a festival free of polemics.”

Hot-button topics like #MeToo, with the looming report of abuse in French cinema, the threat of employment strikes disrupting this year’s edition of the festival, as well as the war in Gaza, were largely avoided by Frémaux.

When asked if the festival had, as widely reported, hired a crisis management team to deal with the possible earthquake of #MeToo allegations against French talent taking part in this year’s festival, Frémaux said he couldn’t comment.

He went further by saying that Cannes President Iris Knobloch did not make any comments to French outlet Le Figaro, shutting down questions on the matter.

He stressed that he only wanted to talk about the films in selection.

“Before, we used to talk about cinema. Before, the only anxiety was about the films – whether they were going to be liked or not.”

Addressing the press, he added: “What has changed the most in the last 20 years are your questions. There is no polemic this year. There are polemics outside the festival, but they do not come from the festival.”

As previously reported, the French film industry is bracing itself for further #MeToo revelations about multiple male actors, directors and producers. Speculation is mounting in the French media over rumours that a bombshell #MeToo exposé will drop on the day of the opening - a mysterious list of 10 actors / directors / producers who are set to be accused of #MeToo allegations, set to be published by Mediapart.

Time will tell whether these revelations will indeed take place and what consequences there will be for Cannes and its talent, but Frémaux expertly dodged the issue.

When addressing Moi Aussi, a 17-minute short from filmmaker and #MeToo activist Judith Godrèche, which will open this year’s Un Certain Regard section, he stated that the sidebar section was key for “communion and dialogue” with the audience. He added that Godrèche’s film was shot in one day, with thousands of sexual abuse victims who contacted her after she called out widespread abuse inside the French film industry.

Thierry Frémaux speaking at the opening press conference for Cannes 2024.
Thierry Frémaux speaking at the opening press conference for Cannes 2024.David Mouriquand

Doubts persist over impact of potential strikes

Regarding the issue of Cannes’ freelance workers, who have threatened to go on strike if the festival does not meet their demands to give them better unemployment protections, Frémaux stated that “very qualified technicians are needed”, highlighting that HR are in continuous discussions with them.

“We don’t want a strike, and they don’t want a strike,” he said. 

New French labour laws, set to go into effect on 1 July, will make it even harder for many freelance workers to qualify for benefits.

“We are talking with them and working with them and hope that the negotiations will be successful,” he added.

However, since he remained rather tight-lipped on the issue, there is no further clarification as to how any potential strike will affect the ongoing of this year's 77th edition.

Can Cannes out-trump Trump?

Frémaux was also questioned about the political impact a festival like Cannes could have. 

Speaking about Ali Abassi’s The Apprentice, which is about the rise of Donald Trump, he said it would likely have no impact on the American elections or his ongoing trial.

“When we gave the Palme d’Or to Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11, did it have an impact on the re-election of George W Bush? No.”

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Frémaux was also asked about how the festival would deal with any potential anti-Israel demonstrations, if there are any this year during the festival or on the red carpet.

“If there are any...” he echoed, before moving on to answer why there are no Israeli films in Competition this year.

“Selections are done independently of any considerations outside of cinema.”

So, a 2024 edition trying desperately to steer clear of any and all controversy. However, it may not have much of a choice in the matter, should strikes materialise and a bombshell report surface...

The 77th Cannes film festival kicks off tomorrow, Tuesday 14 May.

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