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Liv Ullmann Reflects on Cannes Jury Pressure — and Why Cate Blanchett Won’t Feel It

Actress-director Liv Ullmann served on the Cannes jury twice: once as a member in 1978, then as president in 2001. She also knows new president Cate Blanchett personally, having directed the two-time Oscar winner in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” in 2009.

Ullmann is confident that Blanchett will be “fantastic” at the helm of the prestigious panel: “She’s a very honest person, very fair. And she likes to work.”

Her own stint as jury president was freighted with some anxiety. By that point, Ullmann — who became an international star in Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 “Persona” — was concentrating less on acting and more on directing. “I felt added pressure, but that did not come from anyone there,” she says. “It was from myself. I am a woman and an actress, and I was a woman of some age. And those things worried me, because I imagined bigger expectations. I was always afraid, ‘Will they accept what I say?’ I think that’s very much built into my generation. But Cate won’t feel that.”

The jury Ullmann presided over gave three prizes to Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher,” including best actress for Isabelle Huppert. But Ullmann championed Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room,” which took home the top prize. “I remember how the movie affected me,” she recalls, “and how I looked at life after I saw that movie.”

Overall, Ullmann says, she “had a wonderful time” heading the jury. “I had heard that jury voting was political, that the head of Cannes might interfere. I felt none of that.

“It’s not work,” she adds with a laugh. “You go two or three times a day and see a movie and then talk to other jury members about why you liked it. The difficult thing is not ‘What is best?’ but instead ‘What do you feel when you leave that movie?’

“I think that’s why movies are important: They wake up dreams that you can’t always verbalize but that are very real, about who we are and why we are human beings.”

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