Les Cahiers du Cinema, the iconic publication that was a driving force behind the French New Wave, is weathering an unprecedented crisis following the resignation of the majority of its staff on Thursday.
Some of its journalists, however, have decided to remain on board while they await the appointment of a new editor-in-chief.
Among the seasoned candidates rumored to be in the running to take over as editor-in-chief are film critic-director Marcos Uzal; film and theater critic and historian Antoine de Baecque; Charles Tesson, the current artistic director of Cannes Critics Week, who previously held the position at Les Cahiers du Cinema from 1998 to 2003; and Jean-Marc Lalanne, a film critic who runs the culture magazine Les Inrocks.
Although it was reported that the entire newsroom of Les Cahiers du Cinema has quit in protest against the publication’s new owners — which include billionaire businessman Xavier Niel; Alain Weill, the head of Alice Europe; and Toufik Ayadi, the Oscar-nominated producer of “Les Miserables” — at least two journalists are still working for the monthly paper, according to a source close to the mag.
Overall, seven journalists have quit, including editor-in-chief Stéphane Delorme and deputy editor Jean-Philippe Tessé, as well as a few stringers.
In a statement released on Thursday, the editorial staff spoke out against a perceived conflict of interest posed by the Cahier’s owners who bought the publication last month and reportedly said the magazine would become more “chic,” “cordial” and increasingly focused on French cinema going forward.
However, counting businessmen and film producers as owners wasn’t the only issue raised by staffers in their statement. They also pointed out that the publication’s new managing director, Julie Lethiphu, was also the head of the SRF (Society of Film Directors), which adds to fears of pressure and influence from the French cinema community.
“The new shareholders are composed notably of eight producers and this poses a problem of conflict of interest for a critical review. No matter what articles might be published on film by these producers, it would automatically be suspected,” read the statement from staffers who resigned, taking a buy-out clause that protects the rights of journalists when the ownership of an outlet changes.
Founded in 1951, Les Cahiers du Cinema counted among its first contributors Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, and has always prided itself for its editorial independence and iconoclasm, despite financial troubles in recent years. British Phaidon publisher Richard Schlagman bought the publication from French newspaper Le Monde in 2009.
Le Monde reports that the new shareholders claim they have not instructed staffers to alter their editorial vision.
“The editorial staff must write what they want on cinema. It is out of the question to guide your choices,” Eric Lenoir, the new manager of the company, told Le Monde. “(Les Cahiers du Cinema) used to be a reference for French critics and this place was somewhat lost. We’re going to have a large brainstorming (session) about the resonance of the publication by opening it up,” he said.
Les Cahiers du Cinema is not the only French publication whose ownership has raised concerns of conflict of interest.
Le Monde is owned by the holding Le Monde Libre, which is controlled by Niel, who is now also the owner of Les Cahiers du Cinema, as well as the French telco group Free, and Matthieu Pigasse, who also owns Les Inrocks and Radio Nova.
Niel and Pigasse are also the co-founders of Mediawan, a French production and distribution firm comprising several film and TV companies. Meanwhile, Liberation, which ranks as one of France’s biggest national newspapers alongside Le Monde and Le Figaro, has Patrick Drahi, the founder and president of Altice, as one of its two main shareholders. Altice also owns BFM, France’s leading news channel.