Facing a capacity crowd on Sunday at Variety‘s American Directors at Cannes Conference, 11 helmers mulled the question of the meaning of this festival for U.S. films.

“(It) depends what your ultimate goals and aims are,” said Joe Russo (who co-helmed “Welcome to Collinwood,” with his brother Anthony Russo), “but it certainly feels like an important place.”

Under Elvis Mitchell’s moderation, there was a brief discussion on life post-Sept. 11. Alexander Payne (“About Schmidt”) condemned Hollywood for its “always anticipating the moment of violence as the climax. Can’t we make films again that don’t do this?”

Discussion livened up when the session was opened to the audience.

When asked for a moment that inspired them to become filmmakers, Michael Moore (“Bowling for Columbine”) blamed it on “an appearance by the Blessed Virgin and those two other guys who got crucified.” However, Frederick Wiseman (“The Final Letter”) demurred, ‘I don’t remember. This is a non-question!’

Moore also said he is going to work on “getting multiplexes to devote just one screen to independent, foreign and documentary films.”

Also present at the IFP/New York-sponsored event were Brett Morgen (who co-helmed doc “The Kid Stays in the Picture” with Nanette Burnstein); Lisa Cholodenko (“Laurel Canyon”), Chris Hegedus (“Only the Strong Survive,” together with D.A. Pennebaker) and Peter Sollett (“Long Way Home”).