New delegate general only fourth to hold title

Solidifying his status in the hierarchy of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux has been upped from artistic director to delegate general of the world’s highest-profile fest.

Fremaux becomes just the fourth person to hold the title, after Robert Favre le Bret, Maurice Bessy and Gilles Jacob, who will continue to preside as president.

Appointment, which was confirmed by the Cannes board of directors on July 19 and quietly went into effect Aug. 9, will increase Fremaux’s influence by giving him programming authority over the fest, including all sidebars, per a fest insider.

“He was the disciple, now he’s the master,” a festival source said.

New title should also quell periodic rumors, spurred by some programming choices and rumblings of tensions with Jacob, that Fremaux might not remain with Cannes for the long haul. Fremaux’s position at the helm of the Institut Lumiere in Lyon, where he lives, made him look like something of an outsider, or fest part-timer, to Paris-based Cannes vets, but the promotion confirms him as a top-tier member of the Cannes team.

“Especially coming after what was considered a successful festival, this confirms his position as strong,” said another French industryite.

Fremaux,47, will continue his affiliation with the Institut Lumiere.

Favre le Bret, fest’s first delegate general, was upped to president in 1972 and ceded the title to Bessy, who himself was promoted in 1978 when Jacob ascended to the job. When the latter became fest president in 2000, replacing Pierre Viot, Fremaux came aboard as artistic director. As prexy, Jacob will continue to oversee institutional and administrative issues, but for several years has had nothing to do with selecting films.

“A page has turned after seven festivals as artistic director — topped by the success of the 60th edition — he has earned my confidence and my full support,” Jacobs said in a statement about Fremeaux. “It is my primary goal to secure a promising future for this event and this nomination paves the way.”

Heading into 2008, the top echelon of the festival looks securely in place, as Fremaux’s most recently reported contract was for three years, and Jacob’s current three-year contract, renewed in late 2006, will take him beyond the 2009 fest.

(Todd McCarthy, Alison James and Lisa Nesselson contributed to this report.)

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