Cate Blan­chett:

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Prestige (Lebanon) - - Contents - Con­duc­ted by Fa­bian Wain­tal / The In­ter­view People

When you rea­lize that she was born in Aus­tra­lia and she had the big­gest suc­cess in Hol­ly­wood, it makes sense. Cate Blan­chett was cho­sen as the most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tio­nal mo­vie star in the world, to be­come the la­test Pre­sident of the Ju­ry at the Cannes In­ter­na­tio­nal Film Fes­ti­val. Af­ter all, she was part of the same fes­ti­val, six times be­fore, with six of her big mo­vies. No­mi­na­ted se­ven times for an Aca­de­my Award, Blan­chett has two Os­cars at home, and cer­tain­ly has more than en­ough ex­pe­rience to vote for ano­ther award like the Palme d’Or. Yes. It sounds per­fect to call her « Ma­dame La Pré­si­dente » . Cate Blan­chett talks about her role as pre­sident of the ju­ry at Cannes Film Fes­ti­val 2018, the # me­too mo­ve­ment chan­ging the in­dus­try and why mo­vies still mat­ter to­day...

What is a good Palme d’Or? Well, there are ma­ny dif­ferent awards in this ex­tra­or­di­na­ry film fes­ti­val. The Palme d’Or by its ve­ry de­fi­ni­tion is an award that is gi­ven to a film that contains eve­ry­thing. So we have to award the per­for­mances, the di­rec­tion, the ci­ne­ma­to­gra­phy, the script, the ex­tra­or­di­na­ry crew that made the mo­vie pos­sible. So, ho­pe­ful­ly it will last not on­ly with the ju­ry but the minds and ima­gi­na­tions of the au­dience, beyond the time of the fes­ti­val.

Was it a chal­lenge in the be­gin­ning to find a dia­mond out of such di­verse in­ter­na­tio­nal mo­vies, to re­flect what you real­ly love but al­so could re­flect eve­ryone’s point of view? As a crea­tive per­son, from the be­gin­ning, I had to ac­cept that task is im­pos­sible, and wi­thout ha­ving a single conver­sa­tion about any of the films, be­fore seeing them, I knew we would di­sap­point and confound. The fas­ci­na­ting part of this plat­form that is Cannes, is it’s a cultu­ral in­ter­na­tio­nal mel­ting pot where eve­ry single film is worth seeing. Of the 1,600 films they se­lec­ted on­ly 21. I can’t even ima­gine sor­ting so ma­ny films in a 12 months per­iod but they do. But of­ten I think what hap­pens is the di­rec­tors that have been cho­sen are guil­ty as char­ged.

Did your point of view as the Pre­sident of the Ju­ry change the point of view you could have had as an au­dience? It’s won­der­ful as an au­dience to go in an open heart way to try and at­tend to what the film­ma­kers are saying. And of­ten, from afar, if I ha­ven’t, being in the Fes­ti­val that year, I’m not just in­ter­es­ted if the film has won the Palme d’Or but it might of­ten be the one I heard through word of mouth. So there are ma­ny ways which these films could reach you. Cannes is a ve­ry pu­rist fes­ti­val. I think that’s so­me­times the pro­blem with awards be­cause I don’t just fo­cus on awards, it’s much more about the pro­cess to them.

Then, why did you be­come the Pre­sident of the Ju­ry? Well, al­though I’m not in­ter­es­ted in awards, what drew me to this po­si­tion is the dia­logue that I could have among the ex­tra­or­di­na­ry other voices in the ju­ry about the di­ver­si­ty re­pre­sen­ted in the com­pe­ti­tion, and out­side Cannes, too.

Did you need a trans­la­tor for those mem­bers of the ju­ry who don’t speak En­glish or French, like the ac­tor Chang Chen from Tai­wan? Yes, we had a trans­la­tor. It’s ve­ry im­por­tant for a ju­ry to un­ders­tand what eve­ryone says ( laughs). That’s the ba­sic of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ci­ne­ma is a universal lan­guage where emo­tions car­ry the day, but at the end of the week, some of us were figh­ting like cats and dogs! Is it the first time that the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val has a fe­male ju­ry ma­jo­ri­ty? No! That was one of the first thing I as­ked: to have gen­der and race equa­li­ty on the ju­ry. I didn’t choose the rest of the ju­ry and they told me « we do have that! » , be­cause they al­ways choose four men and four wo­men on top of the Pre­sident. I just hap­pen to tip the ba­lance. Sor­ry ( laughs).

Has the # Me­Too mo­ve­ment, along with the sexual ha­rass­ment ac­cu­sa­tions, chan­ged the mo­vie in­dus­try or Cannes in any way? I don’t know about that. It’s a mo­ve­ment, but no­thing changes over­night. It’s going to take time be­fore we achieve equa­li­ty, but it will hap­pen. This mo­ve­ment will re­flect what hap­pe­ned in Cannes this year, next year and no doubt in the fu­ture. For qua­li­ty change to oc­cur, for a pro­found las­ting change to oc­cur, it needs to take place through spe­ci­fic ac­tions. Not through ge­ne­ra­li­za­tions, not through pon­ti­fi­ca­tions. Ad­dres­sing the gen­der is about ad­dres­sing the gen­der gap and ad­dres­sing the ra­cial di­ver­si­ty and equa­li­ty and the way we make the work. And of course that is going on in our in­dus­try and I hope ma­ny in­dus­tries, be­cause the crea­tive in­dus­tries are not dif­ferent from any other in­dus­try around the world in terms of the same pro­blem that they face. Now, is it going to have a di­rect im­pact on the films in com­pe­ti­tion this year, six or nine months on? Not spe­ci­fi­cal­ly. There are se­ve­ral wo­men in com­pe­ti­tion, but they are not there be­cause of their gen­der. They are there be­cause of the qua­li­ty of their work and we are as­ses­sing them as film­ma­kers, as it should be.

« Ci­ne­ma is a universal lan­guage where emo­tions car­ry the day... »

Some people still say the red car­pet is to show beau­ti­ful wo­men in their beau­ti­ful dress but that has no­thing to do with their mo­vies... Being at­trac­tive doesn’t pre­clude being in­tel­li­gent. I think this is by na­ture a gla­mou­rous, fan­tas­tic and spec­ta­cu­lar fes­ti­val full of joie de vivre, full of great, good hu­mor, full of dis­cord and dis­har­mo­ny. Ma­king art is not al­ways going to be har­mo­nious. We are not al­ways going to be in concord agree­ment. The world would be ter­ri­bly bo­ring if it was. I think the gla­mo­rous as­pects of the fes­ti­val are things to be en­joyed in an equal, fair, and equi­table way.

And the fact that there’s on­ly few fe­male di­rec­tors who won in Cannes? A few years ago there were on­ly two fe­male win­ners in Cannes, but I know the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee now has more wo­men on board than in pre­vious years, which will ob­vious­ly change the lens through which the films are cho­sen. But these things are not going to hap­pen over­night. Would I like to see more wo­men in com­pe­ti­tion? Ab­so­lu­te­ly. Do I ex­pect and hope that is going to hap­pen in the fu­ture? I hope so. But we are dea­ling with what we have this year, and our role is to deal with what is in front of us. Al­so, I’m not loo­king at the film­ma­kers as an Ira­nian film­ma­ker, or a Chi­lean, or a Ko­rean, or a fe­male, or a trans­gen­der film­ma­ker. See? We don’t have any trans­gen­der di­rec­tors this year. Oh my god, we fai­led al­rea­dy. Again, we’re dea­ling with what we have in front of us. And our job, as in­dus­try pro­fes­sio­nals away from the fes­ti­val, is to work to­wards change. So, we are dea­ling to what we have in com­ple­tion right now.

The film fes­ti­val se­lec­ted al­so contro­ver­sial di­rec­tors this year, like Lars Von Trier who came back af­ter he was ban­ned in the film fes­ti­val for jo­king about Hit­ler. The Rus­sian di­rec­tor Ki­rill Se­re­bren­ni­kov who is still un­der house ar­rest for fraud in his home coun­try and the Ira­nian di­rec­tor Ja­far Pa­na­hi can’t even leave Iran to come to Cannes. Could you for­get about the real facts when is time to judge one of these mo­vies, too? It’s a le­vel playing field. Isn’t it? So, when you re­move eve­ry­bo­dy’s name, it’s ve­ry hard when so­meone has being pro­found­ly in­fluen­tial in the in­ter­na­tio­nal ci­ne­ma not to bring their bo­dy of work in­to the films they are ma­king, for so­meone who conti­nues ex­pe­ri­men­ting. So, no­bo­dy knows what a new par­ti­cu­lar ex­pe­riment would be and I’m sure di­rec­tors bo­dy of work like Go­dard will stand with or wi­thout a Palme d’Or. It’s ve­ry hard to sit and judge ano­ther ar­tist. That is the most chal­len­ging mo­ment for a ju­ry. That’s why I can’t ans­wer per­so­nal­ly about that, be­cause I came to Cannes with a ge­nui­ne­ly open mind and we had to re­move any names and pasts, to just deal with present.

« The Cannes Film Fes­ti­val is by na­ture a gla­mo­rous event full of joie de vivre, good hu­mor and dis­cord... »

Do you take in consi­de­ra­tion the po­li­ti­cal back­grounds of the di­rec­tors and their mo­vies? This is not a po­li­ti­cal film fes­ti­val and I think the ma­king of the work is not po­li­ti­cal about them, al­though it may have po­li­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions to people who open their minds and hearts in si­tua­tions that are going around the world... The same way we earn em­pa­thy to fa­mi­ly si­tua­tions or love si­tua­tions, people you could re­late to, even if you grew up in Ida­ho or Aus­tra­lia like I did. We’re not tal­king about the No­bel Peace Prize. It’s the Palme d’Or, so it’s dif­ferent func­tion, but yes, it’s a ter­rible si­tua­tion that two of the film­ma­kers can’t be here when their films are scree­ned. Why do you think mo­vies are so im­por­tant? Why do mo­vies mat­ter to­day? Mo­vies are the most po­wer­ful tool to tell sto­ries where you hold up a mir­ror in front of eve­ryone. It’s so im­por­tant to consis­tent­ly self- as­sess and al­so ex­plore and al­so be shown the things you are not cur­rent­ly li­ving with. Things that are not even re­mo­te­ly in your realm. So, it’s like two sides of a beau­ti­ful coin.

Cate Blan­chett at la Mon­tée des Marches du­ring the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val 2018. Ear­rings by Cho­pard.

Cate Blan­chett in a Ma­ry Ka­trant­zou dress and Cho­pard rings.

The ever gla­mo­rous Pré­si­dente du Ju­ry ar­rives at the Tro­phée Cho­pard event.

Cate at the Ope­ning Ce­re­mo­ny wea­ring Cho­pard ear­rings.

Cate Blan­chett in a Gi­ven­chy Haute Cou­ture gown.

Karl La­ger­feld and Cate at the Va­ni­ty Fair France and Cha­nel din­ner in Cannes.

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