At the head of the Cannes Film Festival, “everyone has their own swimming lane”


Thierry Frémaux and Iris Knobloch, in Cannes, May 13, 2024. LOIC VENANCE/AFP

“Our tandem will celebrate its cotton wedding anniversary this year. » This is how Iris Knobloch, 61 years old, the president of the Cannes Film Festival since 1er July 2022 and former boss of Warner Bros in France, spoke in mid-April of her duo formed with Thierry Frémaux, general delegate and high priest of film selection for twenty-three years. Specifying : “It’s a soft and durable material. » In their thirty-one attire, enthroned every evening at the top of the red carpet of the largest festival in the world, both of them, for the second year, generously provided hugs and kisses to their hosts during this 77e editing.

Read the survey (2022) Article reserved for our subscribers Cannes 2022: how Iris Knobloch became the first president of the Festival

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“With Thierry, it works very well since we complement each other. It’s a puzzle that is skillfully constructed”she testifies in Paris Match from May 9. This was by no means obvious: for a long time, Gilles Jacob embodied a presidency worthy of an “Imperator”. And if the Festival and Thierry Frémaux, 63 years old, seem to have been one for years, it is because, from 2014 to 2022, Pierre Lescure – who did not respond to our requests – had adopted an opposite strategy inasmuch as president. “Thierry did everything, and Pierre did the rest”summarizes a Festival administrator who, like almost all his colleagues, bound by a duty of confidentiality, has remained anonymous.

Without counter-power, the general delegate therefore seemed, until 2022, to single-handedly embody the institution. The arrival of Iris Knobloch, the Festival’s first female president, radically changed the situation. To replace Pierre Lescure, the hypothesis of Audrey Azoulay, director general of Unesco, whom Thierry Frémaux called for, had been ruled out by the Elysée. Although dubbed by the Ministry of Culture, Iris Knobloch was “hazed” upon her arrival. She is the only one who has been asked to commit to avoiding any conflict of interest in cinema. Person had been disturbed by the fact that Pierre Lescure – employee of the production company Troisième Œil – was still on the air of France 5 in “C à vous” in 2022, the year of the signing between the Festival and France Télévisions. And what about the sixteen administrators representing cinema (producers, distributors, etc.) on the Festival board who hope to see their films reach the holy grail of selection?

From “business” to “glamor”

The appointment of this businesswoman, a lawyer by training, rebalances the state of forces and powers. Boards of directors are more structured, with a better-framed agenda and debates. “We have more transparent, more direct debates thanks to her”, testifies an administrator. Another recognizes that they have “found a good balance”even if they seem, according to the opinion of several interlocutors, “talk too little to each other” Again.

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