Cannes Film Fest 2022: Thierry Fremaux on Russian Boycott, Women Directors and Netflix

Cannes 2022: Thierry Fremaux on Russian Boycott, Women Directors and Netflix

Thierry Fremaux

After unveiling Cannes Fest’s 2022 Official Selection, artistic director Thierry Fremaux discussed the festival’s drive to not give in to cultural boycott of Russian films, efforts to have more female directors, discussions to bring back streamers.

The all-star competition lineup of this 75th edition boasts no less than four Palme d’Or winning directors, including Japanese master Kore-eda Hirokazu (Japan), Swedish helmer Ruben Ostlund (“Triangle of Sadness”), new films by Cronenberg (“Crimes of the Future”), Kelly Reichardt (”Showing Up”), James Gray (“Armageddon Time”) dissident Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov (“Tchaïkovski’s Wife”).

Most exciting Cannes lineup?

It’s not over! There are 49 films and there are always between 55 and 60 so we could still add about 10.

The competition?

We have about 18 films in competition so we have room. 20 titles would be good, which means there could be 2 more. We’re happy to have diverse lineup with films from Egypt, Iran, Korea and Costa Rica.

Organizing festival amid current political turmoil and war in Ukraine?

We always have to separate the artistic vocation of Cannes from the collective and political issues around the world. But obviously, political events are often reflected in films we show at Cannes because artists are making movies with social, political and environmental themes. What we strive to do at Cannes is to maintain our legitimacy.  We present Butterfly Vision which is the first film of Maksim Nakonechnyi and it plays in Un Certain Regard because it’s very good film. We’re never taking a film to please anyone.

Cannes Festival isn’t removed from the rest of the world and this war is unfolding three-hour flight away from Paris, so we will carry on to celebrate cinema and filmmakers at Cannes without ever stopping to think about what’s going on around us. There will be two Ukrainian films to remind us.

Political movies: “Holy Spider” from Iran, “Boy From Heaven” from Egypt.

“Holy Spider” is not outwardly a political film, it’s a police thriller about a serial killer, but this film is a vehicle to shed light on the underworld of a society, show the night, the shadows, what lies beneath the surface.

“Boy From Heaven” is a film that explores in suspenseful way the issue of rivalry within a religious community.

Kirill Serebrennikov should be able to attend the festival to present his film now that he’s in Germany. He couldn’t attend the world premiere of his last two films (“Leto” and “Petrov’s Flu”) 

Yes, I hope so, and it’s quite a sad story that the year where he was finally able to flee Russia and will be able to attend Cannes to be celebrated is the year when Russia invaded Ukraine. His film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife,” is a period film which takes place in the 19th century. A great film, both classical and modern at the same time.

Cultural boycott of Russian filmmakers and films?

We don’t never give in to anything. The strength of Cannes is to respect firmly who we are by respecting others. We don’t give in to political correctness, we don’t give in to cultural boycott. We go on a case-by-case basis.

Never more than three of four films directed by women in competition?

These kinds of questions can only be answered by putting them in perspective. If we compare this year and 40 years ago it’s not comparable. If cinema was the only problem, it would be fine. Last year, women won all the top prizes at Cannes, including the Competition, Un Certain Regard and Cinefondation. There are no quotas–we select movies based solely on their artistic merits.

Bringing streaming services back in competition?

French exhibitors consider streaming services to represent danger. I get it. But me, I’m paid by the Cannes Film Fest, I’m not paid by exhibitors. My role is to think of the way in which Cannes must position itself. I make proposals and the board decides. So far, I haven’t succeeded in convincing them. I hope to succeed, one day.


I understand Netflix’s position. And it’s normal, look at producers, when they have beautiful film they also want to be in competition. What’s Netflix’s big film this year? It’s “Blonde,” by Andrew Dominik. It’s a wonderful film which deserves to be in competition. I do understand Netflix when they say they don’t want to come out of competition.

Could Netflix agree to release their films in French theaters?

I know that’s also what’s blocking things, if they could release films in theaters there wouldn’t be any issue; but this is an issue only in France, they release films in theaters everywhere else.

While you’re looking after Cannes you’re also a big supporter of theaters–you lead the Lumiere Institute in Lyon and run theater there. 

Theaters are more threatened and admissions have been falling since January 1; and Cannes will always strive to support cinemas, especially now that they need us. This year, with anticipated films like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis” and also with big French films like “November” and “Masquerade,” we hope Cannes will contribute to bring people back in theaters starting in June.