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Fortnight edits its director out

Da Silva, SRF claim to cut ties; programmer Pere up next

PARIS — Cannes Film Festival sidebar Directors Fortnight has parted company with its artistic topper Francois da Silva and hired a newcomer — marking the third artistic director in as many years.

Olivier Pere, 32, a programmer at the Cinematheque, was appointed to replace da Silva by the directors’ org Societe des Realisateurs de Films (SRF), which created Directors Fortnight and picks its artistic topper.

Da Silva was in the job less than eight months after taking over from the fired Marie-Pierre Macia.

“We tried da Silva for a year; it didn’t work out,” said helmer Pascal Thomas, who was re-elected president of the SRF last week.

“The board likes Pere very much. He’s intelligent and he’s a cinephile who knows his history. What we are looking for is excellence and a commitment to putting directors first.”

So was da Silva pushed or did he jump?

There was confusion Friday when da Silva was the first to issue a statement saying he had resigned. The French daily Liberation reported his resignation in its Saturday edition.

“I decided today not to seek a new mandate as artistic director of Directors Fortnight in 2004,” da Silva’s statement read.

“After discussion with the SRF board that appointed me and not having been received, despite my requests, by the new board elected on June 28, the conditions necessary for independence and longevity are not guaranteed.”

Da Silva signed off by saying: “I am appalled by the disdain for a job accomplished and think of the team that worked with me these past … eight months and of the directors who showed us their confidence in 2003.”

But over the weekend, the SRF was keen to set the record straight, insisting the pleasure of severing ties with da Silva had been all theirs.

Thomas said the board had “decided not to renew da Silva’s contract” and appointed Pere to replace him at a meeting Thursday.

Many Cannes goers were too focused on the official selection’s shortcomings this year to pay much heed to da Silva’s freshman lineup.

But there was a complaint from the Camera d’Or jury, which awards a prize to the best first film from the official and sidebar selections. Jury was headed this year by Wim Wenders.

SRF members felt the lineup was “not representative of cinema around the world today. It’s not a question of likes or dislikes,” Thomas said.

The directors’ body also felt that da Silva did not do enough to make helmers feel welcome and that he did not make the best job of presenting their films.

“There is no animosity to da Silva, he just wasn’t up to the job,” Thomas said.

Directors Fortnight has been in flux for several years now, since the departure of its founding artistic director Pierre-Henri Deleau in 1999.

His successor, Macia, parted bitterly with the SRF after three years. She has since been put in charge of programming Paris Cinema, Paris City Hall’s new cinema fixture.

But Thomas insisted the artistic directorship did not have an eject seat.

“Marie-Pierre Macia would still be there if she had not tried to separate Directors Fortnight from the SRF. That can’t be done. The SRF is its biological parent.”

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