Cannes Festival Goes for Documentaries – does it?

Interesting article in Nonfics yesterday by Daniel Walber, a clever comment and reflection on the fact that the Cannes Film Festival has introduced a ”Oeil d’Or” (Golden Eye) award of €5000 with 14 films competing and with a jury that includes fine names as Rithy Panh, Nicolas Philibert and Diana el Jeiroudi.

The problem, however, according to Walber, well to anyone who is in for the artistic, creative documentary, is that 10 of the films are films about legendary film directors and actors – a quote:

“There are two 50-minute films on Orson Welles, one of which was produced by Turner Classic Movies. There’s one about actor Steve McQueen‘s love of auto racing, another about pioneering African filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, and a profile of Gérard Depardieu. There’s even a documentary about the history of the Palme d’Or itself. Kent Jones‘s Hitchcock/Truffaut is an inevitable highlight, as well as Stig Björkman‘s Ingrid Bergman, in Her Own Words. Daniel Raim, Oscar-nominated for his short profile of art director Robert Doyle, is back with Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. Finally, the one I’m most looking forward to is By Sidney Lumet, a new American Masters film from Afternoon of a Faun director Nancy Buirski.”

I am sure that several of these films are full of creativity (long to see Björkman’s on Ingrid Bergman and the one on Hitchcock/Truffaut) but they “smell” of well crafted television documentaries, where the main subject is commented on by colleagues, experts, whatever. So the competition is in no way reflecting the strong position of author-driven documentaries worldwide today as the feature categories go for the “auteur”.

To be fair Asi Kapadia’s film on Amy Winehouse, Amy (photo), that has received enormously positive reviews after its screening at the festival, is also in this first competition at the Cannes festival. Let’s wait and see what the jury decides.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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