Bruno Barde, the man behind five festivals including the Deauville American Film Fest, sat down with Variety on the eve of the 41st edition, which opens today with an homage to Keanu Reeves and the French premiere of Baltasar Kormakur’s epic adventure drama “Everest.”
A former high-profile agent and the current boss of Paris-based Public System Cinema, Barde took over the artistic direction of Deauville 20 years ago and has strived to select movies and documentaries that reflect the breath and diversity of contemporary U.S. cinema, as well as its society.
This year, the main theme of the festival is heroism. “American cinema abounds with cult heroic figures; not only in studio movies with superheroes but also in independent films with real people who by virtue become heroes,” said Barde. Many actors who will be honored in Deauville have interpreted these heroes: Reeves with “Matrix” and “Speed”; Orlando Bloom with “The Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”; Michael Bay with “Armageddon” and “Transformers”; Ian McKellen with “X-Men”; Robert Pattinson with “Twilight”; and Elizabeth Olsen with “Captain America” and “Avengers.”
“We chose this theme of heroism because it’s what our world needs today and everyday men are capable of it as we recently saw with the American men who stopped the attack in the Thalis,” Barde explained.
Other Deauville honorees include Terrence Malick, Patricia Clarkson and the late Orson Welles.
Barde, who seems more into debating films, society and philosophy than mundane red-carpet topics, says he’s not looking to win a popularity contest and argues he’s not into the circus of chasing world premieres at all costs.
Year after year, Deauville has sharpened its focus on indie films rather than studio movies; a trend that illustrates the U.S. market evolution, per Barde. “The U.S. produces 707 movies, including 110 from studios and 597 from independent producers, so our selection is shaped by this trend.”
Many films set to compete have a social streak, whether they’re dramas, dark comedies or genre movies. Ramin Bahrani’s “99 Homes” deals with a man who faces foreclosure and ends up working with a greedy real estate broker; Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room” is about a band of punk rockers coming across a violent white-supremacist gang; Morgan Krantz’s “Babysitter” centers around a broken family; Chloé Zhao’s “Songs That My Mother Taught Me” is about a high school grad from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation community who comes to L.A. looking for a job; Jon Watts’ “Cop Car” turns on a shady small-town sheriff hunting for two kids who stole his car; Zoe Cassavetes’ “Day of Our Days” depicts the journey of a fortysomething actress struggling to keep her dignity while trying to find roles in Hollywood; Hank Bedford’s “Dixieland” is about a young ex-con who moves into a trailer park in the Deep South with his girlfriend but relapses into crime; Rick Famuyiwa’s “Dope” focuses on an African-American geek from the L.A. projects who wants to become hip by every means; Michael Thelin’s “Emelie” is about a young couple who come across a dangerous babysitter; and Adam Salky’s “I Smile Back” tells the tale of a woman who hides her personal turmoil to pretend a perfect life.
“All these indie films tackle social, political, sexual issues with real characters who are grounded in society,” said Barde.
Deauville will wrap Sept. 12 with the French premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario.”