Italo filmmaker Nanni Moretti to head Cannes jury

Fest leaders sought Euro to top 65th panel

Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti has been tapped to head the jury at this year’s Cannes festival.

“The festival wanted to celebrate its 65th season with a European jury president,” said Cannes delegate general Thierry Fremaux in announcing the selection. “High-spirited and marked by his modernity and intelligence, Nanni Moretti’s films are the incarnation of all the best in cinema over the past 30 years.”

Cannes’ latest European jury presidents were Stephen Frears in 2007 and Liv Ullmann in 2001.

Moretti has presented six films at the festival and won the Palme d’Or for “The Son’s Room” in 2001. He also took the director trophy for “Dear Diary” in 1994. He directed and acted in last year’s Papal dramedy “Habemus Papam,” which screened in Competition.

Like recent Cannes jury prexys — Robert De Niro, Tim Burton, French actress Isabelle Huppert, Sean Penn — Moretti is a strongly creative personality whose films reach international audiences, in Moretti’s case via arthouse circuits.

Distributed by Le Pacte, “Papam,” Moretti’s clearest attempt to broaden his audience, grossed a strong €4.4 million ($5.7 million) in France. Gallic film magazine Cahiers du Cinema voted it the best film of 2011. Sundance Selects has U.S. distrib rights.

Festival president Gilles Jacob said he had a premonition that Moretti would become a major figure in cinema in 1978 when his “Ecce Bombo” was entered into competition. “This is what happened and I am so gratified to have had this long and affectionate collaboration,” he added.

To select a jury president, Fremaux and Jacob traditionally draw up a list of potential names of directors, actors or screenwriters every fall, submit it to the festival board and select a candidate from the approved choices.

Chosen by the festival, jury members are then announced at the mid-April Official Selection press conference in Paris.

This year’s festival runs May 16-27.

Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.