When Gilles Jacob took over as Cannes’ general delegate from Maurice Bessy in 1978, he immediately set about stream-lining the festival. One of Jacob’s first significant acts was to create Un Certain Regard, which absorbed three separate sidebars (Les Yeux Fertiles, L’Air du Temps and Le Passe Compose) founded by Bessy.
The emphasis of Un Certain Regard, meaning literally “having a certain outlook,” has always been on auteur-driven cinema. “Each film has a distinctly personal vision, one shaped by national or continental identity,” says Jacob, who ceded the sidebar’s selection process to Thierry Fremaux when he became festival president in 2000. “Above all we look for quality, talent and new ways of cinematographic expression.”
The strength of recent Un Certain Regard selections has led some festival critics to complain that many of the sidebar’s pics deserve to be in the main competition and vice versa. Jacob agrees.
“I don’t see Un Certain Regard as merely an antechamber of the competition, but a place which gathers all kinds of talent,” he says. “Experienced filmmakers who have been in competition all return in Un Certain Regard, while less-experienced filmmakers can go from Un Certain Regard to the main competition. We will have achieved our goal when the main competition and Un Certain Regard become interchangeable.
“Un Certain Regard (favors) auteur films and this is the sector of world production that is suffering most at the moment,” Jacob continues. “The vast number of films produced, notably in France, has created a bottleneck effect. A number of so-called ‘difficult films,’ which need quite a long time to build word of mouth, are bumped from cinema screens far too quickly.”
To do its part in helping to alleviate this situation, Cannes’ main Un Certain Regard Prize now comes with grant money to be spent on marketing and distributing the winning pic in France. Supported by the Groupama Gan Foundation, the kudo is worth E30,000 ($48,000). The first recipient of the prize in 2005 was Romanian pic “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.”
This year, Jacob says the Cannes festival is selecting slightly fewer films than in previous years, “to put even more emphasis on the films that are there.”
The festival’s website is also set to play a more prominent role in supplying information about Cannes films when they are eventually released throughout the world.
“It is a problem that the festival is taking very seriously,” adds Jacob. “At the moment we’re trying to solve it internally.”