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Joel Mayward

72nd Festival de Cannes (2019)

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So, some news: I am planning on attending the Cannes Film Festival this upcoming May. The Dardennes are my primary research topic for my PhD, and their film Ahmed will almost certainly premiere at Cannes this year (barring some unlikely or unforeseen circumstances). So, I aim to see their new film, and hopefully get an interview with them, because...research. The press accreditation opens on February 1, and I have a few media outlets I've contacted in order to cover the festival. Even if I can't get press accreditation, I should be able to attend as a graduate student studying film (and hopefully my membership in OFCS will be useful too). Either way, the plane tickets have been purchased and accommodations have been secured. I am probably over-prepared and thinking way too far ahead, but such is my personality. And I'm thrilled; if this works out, it is a dream come true.

Has anyone here at A&F attended Cannes before? If you have any tips on travel, the Cannes festival culture, things to see or do (or avoid!), or stuff I wouldn't even know to ask about, I'd be grateful for your wisdom.

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No, I haven't been, but I'll follow this conversation with interest.  This is very exciting - I'm quite happy for you, Joel!

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Sounds like a fantastic experience! Have you chatted with Alissa Wilkinson? She has attended Cannes for a few years, IIRC.

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How fun! I'm jealous.

Not to be a downer, but I suspect you'll need press accreditation in order to get an interview. I haven't been to Cannes, but I know from a lot of friends' experiences that wrangling interviews there is a challenge, especially with someone of the Dardennes' profile. At world premieres, sales agents are trying to get their films into major media in as many global markets as possible, so there's a brutal pecking order for press. At Cannes it's a caste system, with different badges for different critics.

As an example, I've been trying to get another interview with Claire Denis for almost a year. If all goes as planned, she and I hope to chat a bit next week in Rotterdam, but the sales/publicity team aren't giving me an interview because they're focused right now on getting High Life into more markets. As far as they're concerned, they don't have to worry about the US until April, when it's officially released. (I've been promised some time with her then, but we'll see.)

Best case scenario for you, Joel, would probably be 15-20 minutes, and with their interpreter involved, that means asking two or three questions. Let me know if it comes together, because I've been in those situations before and have found some strategies for making the most if it.

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I recall Alissa Wilkinson went to Cannes one year. I think it was for CT, but it might have been for Vox. You might reach out to her if you still have her contact info. I think Doug C. has been to Cannes, but I could be mistaken.

Good luck.

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3 hours ago, Darren H said:

Best case scenario for you, Joel, would probably be 15-20 minutes, and with their interpreter involved, that means asking two or three questions. Let me know if it comes together, because I've been in those situations before and have found some strategies for making the most if it.

Darren, if I get an interview, I will definitely take you up on this, as your most recent interview with them on The Unknown Girl was excellent. I'm hoping any initial interview will be an opening for a longer, more extensive interview for my PhD research purposes. I'm trying to balance the two roles--film critic and researcher--in my approach with them, as I'm essentially writing a book about their entire filmography, so I *hope* they're amenable to a longer interview (although with some reluctant artists, the fact that I'm researching them could be a reason to *not* give an interview). And good luck in Rotterdam--hope it works out with Denis!

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement! I'll reach out to Alissa and see what wisdom I can gain from her experience.

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Joel, I mentioned your situation to my friend Danny Kasman, the editor of Mubi's Notebook. He's conducted dozens of interviews at Cannes over the past decade. He suggested not even attempting to set up an interview there. Instead, he thinks you should reach out to them via their production office. Send an actual letter, introducing yourself, describing your project, and requesting an interview at their convenience. It's someone's job there to read mail and field those kinds of requests, and that person will have a sense of their production and travel schedule. Maybe you can find some research funds for a trip to Liège?

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On 2/4/2019 at 2:19 PM, Darren H said:

Joel, I mentioned your situation to my friend Danny Kasman, the editor of Mubi's Notebook. He's conducted dozens of interviews at Cannes over the past decade. He suggested not even attempting to set up an interview there. Instead, he thinks you should reach out to them via their production office. Send an actual letter, introducing yourself, describing your project, and requesting an interview at their convenience. It's someone's job there to read mail and field those kinds of requests, and that person will have a sense of their production and travel schedule. Maybe you can find some research funds for a trip to Liège?

Thanks so much for this, Darren. That helps with my expectations. I've been in contact with Les Films de Fleuve since July, and get responses which are polite versions of "they're busy making Ahmed, so we'll let you know." I've sent emails, not letters--did Danny mention why a letter instead of email? My main goal at Cannes is to see Ahmed--might be one of the only chances to see it in that version, if they do what they did with The Unknown Girl and edit it later--and *maybe* make a face-to-face connection with someone in their company/group in order to possibly set up a trip to Liège, as there are some archival things I'd like to check out. Honestly, I'd love to someday bring them here to St Andrews to have a conversation/screening with the Film Studies and Philosophy departments, but that requires getting a hold of them first. :) 

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