Cambodian auteur Rithy Panh has rejoined the jury that will decide the prizes for Cannes Film Festival’s inaugural TikTok short film competition. Panh resigned as president of the jury two days ago due to concerns over possible influence of the outcome by the organizers. He was followed by two other jurors.
“I recently stepped down from my position as president of the jury, while TikTok seemed to want to influence our decision about prize winners,” Panh told Variety. “Now that it has stated that it will respect the jury’s choice, I have returned.”
Panh said that he had been dealing with the European management of the Chinese-owned social media giant and its French offices. He said that the reassurances he received were in writing, as would be appropriate for something as serious as a Palme at Cannes.
“I got the reassurance yesterday. That’s why I came back,” he said. “Returning was not about me, but to celebrate artists and creators. All the jury are all gathered here to celebrate our shared love of film — in whatever form, at whatever length — and to celebrate freedom of creation.”
Earlier, he explained his resignation as caused by “a persistent disagreement over the independence and sovereignty of the jury.” Specific problems included repeated suggestions of films that were by the best-known filmmakers and were the least politically contentious.
Panh told the French news magazine l’Obs, “The difficulty is that TikTok is a marketing-focused company and fails to understand creators and their independence…They kept asking me for reports on our progress, even though we hadn’t even seen each other.”
Freedom of expression is always a hot button topic at major film festivals, but this year at Cannes it has been particularly acute. The festival is being held as Russia and the West wage a propaganda battle over coverage of the war in Ukraine.