Art critique

Ava Cahen • General Delegate of Critics’ Week

– La nuova delegata generale della Critics’ Week of the Festival di Cannes ci parla della sua selezione 2022

This article is available in English.

Having spent five years on the event’s selection committee, Ava Cahen is now appointed artistic director of Critics’ Week (read our news), the 61st edition of which takes place from May 18 to 26, 2022 within the 75th Cannes film festival. Cahen sheds light on this year’s selection (read our article) in an interview with Cineuropa.

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Cineuropa: What personal touch can you bring to your first selection as Artistic Director, while remaining true to the Critics’ Week legacy??
Ava Cahen: For me, it is obviously a question of continuity. I spent five years on the selection committee of Charles Tesson, so I learned from the best and I intend to continue all the work done over the past five years. But I have my own personality and I think it will show here and there, like in the poster of this year’s edition which is quite different from those of previous years, with its art photo and that of an artist like Charlotte Abramow, who has a real pop vibe about her and really cinegenic, and who explores the body and all things feminine. It’s another way of announcing that a new era is dawning, while remaining faithful to the Critics’ Week mission: to get closer to emerging talents and reveal them to the world.

This year’s competition is made up entirely of first feature films. Was it a conscious decision?
It was absolutely what we wanted. We’ve seen a lot of first films this year and the Semaine de la Critique offers you a well-rounded 2022 selection because we find our usual figures: not only was it our 60th anniversary last year, we also did two festivals in one , after having deprived ourselves of a festival in 2020, we therefore wanted to make it a point of honor to be very welcoming, very generous. This year is more of a return to normal, hence our decision to pay homage to a few brilliant early films.

Will there be different genres of films in competition?
Yes, but there will also be a few themes that the press will no doubt have fun unraveling. This year, there are films that take a closer look at the family, the family structure, the status of women. Two feature films in competition, After Sun by Charlotte Wells and Alma Viva by Cristele Alves Meira, are portrayed through the eyes of children, for example. But it is above all the desire to create an event every day, in different registers, colors and shapes, all these approaches forming a galaxy of new talents that we wanted to create and which can tell us a lot about the world. the cinema. It is also necessary that these films can coexist rather than oppose each other, even if it is obviously a competition and that the jury will have to choose between them.

Of the seven filmmakers in competition, five are European. Is this the result of varying production volumes across continents, linked to how different countries have handled the pandemic over the past two years?
Yes, because we mainly received European films. There are no films from Africa this year, but we have selected Andres Ramirez Pulidoit is The Jauría in competition for Colombia, which is an incredibly promising region when it comes to cinema. And Iran returns to the Critics’ Week competition for the first time in 20 years, through Ali Behradit is Tasavor. We also have an out-of-competition American film screening (When you’re done saving the world by Jesse Eisenberg) alongside a South Korean production (Next Sohee by Jung July), two works that completely overwhelmed us. Obviously, this is a way for us to internationalize the selection, because this is the vocation of Critics’ Week. So there are several less French films than usual (summer scars by Simon Riet in competition, and Celine Devauxit is Everybody loves Joan and Clement Cogitoreit is Son of Ramses in special screenings) and it’s also a way for us to affirm our position on French cinema: we expect a lot from it but above all we believe in its potential to travel abroad and shine, and we want to play a relevant role in this.

Have you adopted rules of conduct for potential films offered by streaming platforms?
Critics’ Week isn’t so heavily impacted by this, as platforms naturally tend to lean towards more established names and aren’t taking any chances on first and second features just yet. But we are starting to receive films from the platforms, and we cannot close our eyes to it. We follow the same guidelines as the Official Selection: these films are eligible, but only out of competition.

How was the selection process, given that the films seem to arrive later and later, for various reasons?
At La Semaine de la Critique, the forward-looking work we carry out is immense. The event is 61 years old, it is highly publicized and its editorial line and the talent it has produced are now well known: we could therefore easily sit in our armchairs and wait for people to send us their films. But the reality is that before seeing these films and selecting them with the committee, there is a whole other phase which consists of finding films and traveling to the countries where they are shot. It’s really important to have this kind of contact and I traveled a lot between September and February. It was really educational because, as critics, we mainly interact with talents: filmmakers, actresses, actors, screenwriters and potentially producers. It’s really useful to initiate this kind of dialogue.

As for submission volumes, we thought it might be down from the outstanding previous year, but it really wasn’t. Our number is in the 2019 average with 1,100 feature films and 1,700 short films, which is quite impressive. It’s also true that we received a lot of films quite late, so it wasn’t easy, we had to speed up, but we made the right choices, I think, without feeling at the bottom of the wall. I didn’t feel any competition between us and the other Cannes selections; there was indeed a real dialogue, because we all have the same goal and we are working towards the same thing: for these films that we have found and that we want to share with others to be screened at Canes.

Two of the films selected in competition also spent time as part of Critics’ Week Next Step Workshop. Does the workshop act as a great road to the event or is their selection purely fortuitous?
It’s always satisfying to see projects from Next Step spotted by festivals, and many of them have already traveled to Berlin, Venice and Locarno. There is no rule, obligation or even priority for us to select these works for Critics’ Week, it turns out that we were overwhelmed by Mikko Myllylahtiit is The woodcutter’s story and Cristele Alves Meirait is Alma Viva, so we couldn’t not select them. We are delighted because it allows us to see this workshop bear real virtuous fruit.

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