When he came onboard as artistic director at the Deauville American Film Festival in 1995, Bruno Barde went about retooling the event.
He started by introducing the official competition — to showcase new voices in American independent cinema before a predominantly French jury — and thought to make his vision for the festival clear with an unmistakable visual.
“I saw us as a French perspective on American cinema,” Barde says. “So it’s no accident that the poster [that year] featured a bridge linking Deauville to New York.”
In planning this year’s poster, which features a pensive Kirk Douglas in profile, the festival chief wanted to convey a similar set of intentions.
“When Kirk passed away [in February], I knew we had to honor him. We put him on the poster, with that look towards the future, because he was a man who always looked to the future, who was also a kind of bridge.
“Deauville has always had a unique relationship with the Douglas family,” he says. “Kirk spoke fluent French, as does his son Michael. He acted in films from Jacques Tourneur, and met his wife in France while shooting a film here. Michael Douglas met his own wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, at the Deauville festival.”
The festival will also pay tribute to the Hollywood icon with a 10-film retrospective that will feature hard-to-source prints of Douglas’ flagship roles.
With his most recent addition to the festival, Barde has looked to celebrate French directors on the other side of that bridge.
Inaugurated in 2018, the Deauville Festival Award honors Gallic directors who have worked with American actors, crews and themes. Following previous recipients Jacques Audiard and Olivier Assayas, this year’s award will go to director Barbet Schroeder.
Schroeder has produced highbrow fare for Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, and directed “Reversal of Fortune” and such Hollywood thrillers as “Single White Female” and “Murder by Numbers,” making the filmmaker a kind of ideal honoree.
“One of the strengths of American cinema is how it incorporates talent from all over the world,” adds Barde. “The U.S. is a young country that has been able to integrate people from all over, so it’s normal for a festival dedicated to American film to incorporate international talent as well.”
When it comes to this year’s competition, the Deauville director makes sure to point out the gender parity in the overall selection. Highlighting such films as Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow,” Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Baby” and Kitty Green’s “The Assistant,” Barde says: “Eight out of 15 films in competition are from female directors, and seven of the 15 are from first-time directors. That’s not nothing.”
Indeed. Sometimes, it seems, a bit of outside perspective can help.