Cannes Jury Talks 'Taboo,' Women Filmmakers and Flirting With Oscar

One of the funniest moments during a "meet the jury session" Wednesday afternoon in Cannes came toward the end of a press conference. The annual first-day Q&A has long been a peculiar dance, with jurors giving vague answers about being happy to be on the jury and how they'll pursue the next 11 days viewing all of the competition entries with an open mind. And this year was pretty much no exception: Joined by fellow jurors Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger, Jean Paul Gaultier, Raoul Peck, Andrea Arnold, Hiam Abbass and Emmanuelle Devos, jury president Nanni Moretti — whose own film Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) screened in competition here last year — recalled a wall of silence surrounding the jury when he last served many years back.

"When I was here 15 years ago, we weren't allowed to speak out," Moretti said, comparing how times have changed for the Cannes Film Festival. "Now we have this press conference and another one after [the winners are chosen]." He likened the former wall of silence to a Vatican conclave, the secret meeting of the Catholic Church's cardinals who select a pope, a drama that figured so prominently in his film that debuted here one year ago. "Speaking to the press used to be taboo," he said. "But now only conclaves must be silent."

But the fact of the matter is they do speak, both today and after the awards are announced (but supposedly not in between). This year, the dearth of female directors in the official competition has again caused controversy. Last year, four women directors screened in competition (there were none in 2010), but this year's lineup is again dominated by the males.

"I'd absolutely hate if one of my films got selected to be in Cannes only because I'm a woman," Arnold said when asked about the lack of female representation among the films she'll judge this year. "I'd only want it selected if it were worthy to be here. But I also think Cannes is a pocket of the world and the fact of the matter is, there are a lack of female directors out there." Arnold won two jury prizes in Cannes for Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009).

Beyond controversy, there is the ever present discussion of the Oscars, something that typically figures in with Toronto in the early fall. But last year, Cannes debuted three Academy Award nominees for Best Picture — Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life and the eventual Oscar-winner The Artist. Will next year's Oscar race be influenced again by what happens in Cannes — two events separated by nine months? "I think it's a completely different ballgame between the Oscars and Cannes," McGregor noted, perhaps dodging the question a bit. "But this is a great springboard for new filmmakers to be noticed."

"On the one hand it's ridiculous to say one film is better than another," said juror Alexander Payne about picking winners, himself an Oscar winner this year for The Descendants. "The selection of the entire slate of films brings more attention than the actual prizes."

Read all of Movieline's Cannes 2012 coverage here.