Macau (MNA) – Acclaimed French director and winner of the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 with his feature Entre les Murs (The Class), Laurent Cantet, said in an interview with media on Sunday that his work focuses on listening “to what people have to say of their own life” as well as “giving space of speech to people who don’t have it usually.” Mr. Cantet, President of the Jury of the International Film Festival and Awards • Macao (IFFAM) is visiting the city for the first time.
What can you say about the selection of movies in competition at IFFAM?
Laurent Cantet. It is difficult for me to speak, because I am not supposed to do it, but what is interesting is the diversity of films that we’ve seen from different parts of the world, different genres too, and it is a pretty good selection for the moment, I guess. All of us are quite happy with what we have seen. We still need to see a few of them. Still waiting for a good surprise, but it is really interesting.
What sorts of elements and criteria do you consider when assessing films in your role as a member of the jury?
LC. I don’t think that we have a precise element. We are five, and we watch the films as a spectator would do, although, of course, maybe not exactly the same way. I think the first element is to be moved by the film. And then after that, you can discuss an actor who is better than another one, or a problem with the script. And what is important for me in a jury like this is that you don’t know anything about the film you are going to see. Especially here, because it is a first film or maybe a second film for each director. So you arrive and you are a virgin in front of the film, you just arrive here and discover it. That’s a very nice moment.
When did you decide you wanted to be a storyteller and cinema director?
LC. I first started by making photos and I discovered that I would make more and more series of photos telling short stories, and I like to write short stories too, and that brought me to decide to make films. But I think that the most important moment for me was to be admitted in to a cinema school. When I arrived there I did not know anything about making a film, and a few years later I had made five films, worked in a lot of other films, met a lot of people, and that was really the moment that everything was decided.
How do you create your films and what do you aim to accomplish in them?
LC. When I am making a film, I am trying to describe the world in which I live, I try to describe the context, I try to tell a story, and every film has a way to be done. I don’t think that I have a style. I think I am adapting my way of making a film to a story I am telling. Maybe the particularity of all my films is to be made with non-professional actors, mixed with professional actors, because I think it is important for me to listen to what people have to say of their own life and try to give space of speech to people who don’t have it usually.
What is the most sensitive issue nowadays for the film industry in France?
LC. Of course, we have problems like everywhere to make films in France, especially because there are a lot of films made; we can make them, and the most difficult thing is to release them. There is a concentration on big films, and the diversity of French cinema, which was probably one of its most important features, is maybe getting a little bit down now […]. That’s what we are trying to do now, keep this diversity alive. Unfortunately, the problem is the same in many countries. It is more and more difficult to sell our films to foreign countries too. But France is still producing something like 240 films per year, which is still quite good.
What aspects of Macau have caught your attention since you arrived in the city?
LC. I think the way the two universes coexist in the same city is interesting. When you go to the old part of the city and you have this or that building at the back, and you really feel this mix of cultures too. I haven’t known the city for long. I arrived two days ago, and we have seen a lot of films, so maybe next week it will be easier for me to talk about it.
Laurent Cantet in focus
The latest film by Laurent Cantet, The Workshop (L’Atelier), premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year. Mr. Cantet won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2008 and an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film for his school-room drama The Class (Entre Les Murs). His first feature Human Resources won the Cesar for best first feature and the European Film Award for discovery of the year in 1999. Since then, Mr. Cantet’s films have been fixtures at the main film festivals worldwide. They include Time Out (2001), Heading South (2005), Foxfire: Confessions Of A Girl Gang (2012) and Return To Ithaca (2014).