An Exclusive Interview with the secretary general of the section, “Fifteen Days of Directors” at the Cannes Film Festival

Power in the Hands of Youth
By Mohammad Haqiqat

After the crisis of the past two or three years in the section, “Fifteen Days of Directors,” Pierre Henri Duleaux, who was among the founders of this section and directed it for thirty years, stepped down. Olivier Pere is the third person to be selected by the Center for French Directors and Writers. I had made an interview appointment with him and when I arrived at his office, I came across a youth of about 25 years, who appeared to be a student. Believing that he, too, had an appointment with the new secretary general, with surprise I discovered that this youth was Olivier Pere himself. He greeted me with kindness, and as it turned out, his colleagues were as young as he. Restless and energetic, without my asking any question, he opened the conversation.

When was the first time you went to the Cannes Film Festival?
In 1995 or 1996, when I had just begun to work for Paris Cinematheque, as an eager viewer. The second year I visited, I watched films voraciously, even in the film market. One of my friends, who is critic for a weekly, asked me to write critiques on the market films;  so my work began as a critic, and I write for the magazine Les Inrocks. I also see many films in Paris, and write articles on B, or Hong Kong, films, and old films. My official work is planning for one of the theaters of Paris’s Cinematheque.
Where does all your excitement come from?
I was born in the port city of Marseilles, and I am 32 years old.
But you appear to be 25.
Thank you! I studied literature for a while at St. Etienne. I have great interest in modern literature. I never attended any film school, but I became enchanted with film as of childhood; I saw many films and read much about cinema. My film school is the movie theater. I came to Paris early in the 1990s, became acquainted with various people, and began to work at Cinematheque. Very soon I realized that I did not want to make films. My interest is more in the screening of films, and serving the film industry. For this reason, in spite of my new position, I continue to work at Cinematheque. Every kind of film is interesting to me, and I include it in my work. From classic and fantasy films to the forgotten films of the history of cinema. In Cinematheque we are fortunate enough to own the most important and comprehensive collection of the world’s films, and we try to screen films from all corners of the world, and especially to train young film lovers. In “Fifteen Days of Directors,” too, this excitement for the discovery and introduction of the films of today’s world will exist. The foundations of the films of the future are laid in a vibrant, spirited and innovative festival.
Will all your colleagues be new people?
Our selection committee comprises four people, each of whom have different tastes; I have know them for a long time, and I trust their judgments. In order to select films, they will travel to various parts of the world – and I will, too. One of them write critiques for Cahiers du Cinema; another works for a video club; a third is a script writer, a graduate of the film school Femis, and the fourth person is among the students of the same school. Therefore, a group of young people, with a new outlook, and new inclinations will select the films. In spite of their young ages, they are quite familiar with film. I want the liveliness, youth, and excitement which existed years ago at “Fifteen Days” to be revived.
Do you make the final decision on selecting a film?
Of course. We exchange views, but naturally I have to make the final decision.
Have you seen films that have drawn your attention for future periods?
Yes. Films that are being made. I have made trips, and I have certain films in mind, but I cannot speak of them at the moment.
As a film lover, to what extent are you familiar with Iranian films?
I confess that I am no specialist in Iranian films. But I have seen a few. I am familiar with Kiarostami’s works. Many years ago I saw a film by him which transformed me. And this is the most brilliant Iranian film that I have yet seen. This film gave me a feeling which I have seldom felt. I have not seen this film for a long time, and I would like to see it again. The film is Close Up, and I am certain that it is Kiarostami’s best film.
Which country in Asia has drawn your attention the most?
It depends on the products of each year. But today the focus is mostly on South Korea, as well as the films of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan…
What changes will you make in “Fifteen Days of Directors”? Will you make it competitive? Will you review the works and pay tribute to certain people? For example, don’t you want to honor Pierre Henri Duleaux for thirty years of work?
This will not be a competition section. Only the “Federation of Film Art and Experience” presents a prize every year to the outstanding film in this section. Our work is to create the best conditions for the screening of a film for the director and producer. You know that the first film of any director, without any conditions, will become a candidate for receiving the Camera d’Or, and thus far, in this section, many films have won this prize. European Cinema Institute will present a prize for one of the films, selected by their own jury panel. Meanwhile, it has been one or two years that one director is honored with a prize for the collection of his works.
Will you have short films in this section?
Yes. Short films and documentaries, which of course will not be great in number, and each film will be screened twice, along with a session of dialogue and debate with the director.
Do you know the heads of the other sections at the Cannes Film Festival? Considering that you will all have close competition, what will be your relations with them?
Of course. Let me set your mind at rest and tell you that we are not at war with each other. But we will be in strong competition with our kind of view and critics, and this is a natural kind of competition. Of course, today is not like it was before, and it is more difficult to find good films for each of the sections.
For years, German films have not been represented at Cannes. Will you attend to the films of countries that have been less represented at Cannes?
We shall try. Of course, it is not Cannes’ fault. It also depends on the products of that country. I will go to Latin America and other countries, and I hope to find good films. While the films of Europe, the Middle East and Asia are important to me, I will not forget the United States. The U.S. “Independent” films have had a shining presence at the “Fifteen Days of Directors” section for years.
So this year we will see many films at the “Fifteen Days” section. Will they be greater in number than in previous years?
No. It will not be like last year or previous years. Rather, they will be more limited in number, and more innovative and art films will be chosen. One must create a unique atmosphere for the “Fifteen Days of Directors” section so as to differentiate it from other sections and festivals. We don’t want to compete with the competition section and create stars. We will attend more to the essence of cinema. Our tastes and desires are different from those who select films for competition. Meanwhile, French films will also be included in the “Fifteen Days” section; they will not have a separate section.

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