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Exits rock Cannes event

Three key figures ankle within weeks

PARIS — Critics’ Week, the Cannes Intl. Film Festival sidebar, is in disarray following the departures of prexy Jacques Zimmer, artistic director Jose Maria Riba and longstanding administrator Eva Roelens.

The three key figures ankled within weeks of each other following months of squabbling over the direction the sidebar had been taking, French sources said Monday.

Riba, who took over as artistic director just two years ago, went public a few days ago about his split with the sidebar in an email to members of the French Critics’ Union, which created the showcase.

Revealing he had quit the Critics’ Week board shortly after Cannes, he blamed his departure on “an accumulation of incomprehensions, human and professional, displayed by key members” of the union.

In the same message, Riba lamented that Roelens, his partner, had been “dismissed after more than 10 years’ service” to the union. Zimmer also ankled as prexy shortly after this year’s Cannes’ Film Fest.

The French Critics’ Union has been roiled by infighting and some members recently set up a rival association.

Zimmer has already been replaced by Gerard Lenne. Riba’s successor, who will come from the ranks of the Critics’ Union, could be named at a board meeting Sept. 25. No one has yet replaced Roelens.

Meanwhile, Riba’s daughter, Saioa Riba, continues in her job as Critics Week’s film researcher.

Explaining the backdrop to the departures, a spokesman for the sidebar said that there had been strong clashes over how the event should be run in the months leading up to the 2001 Cannes fest. Both Riba and Roelens had been pursuing a more heavily sponsored, higher profile for Critics Week while Zimmer favored a more modest approach.

Riba’s decision to quit came even though his formula appeared to have worked this year, with several sponsors and some new events helping to revitalize the sidebar.

“All the infighting in the leadup to Cannes meant the damage had been done,” a union source said, “Jose had had enough.”

(Lisa Nesselson contributed to this report.)

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