Deauville American Film Festival will forge ahead with its honorary tributes to stars such as Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Peter Dinklage and Joseph Gordon-Levitt despite the fact that they won’t be in attendance due to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
The festival’s artistic director, Bruno Barde, told Variety ahead of the event’s press conference on Thursday that he empathized with actors and writers who are on strike to “protect themselves against the dangers of artificial intelligence.”
“AI has always existed in cinema and it’s now posing a threat to screenwriters, set designers, dubbers and, of course, to actors whom we’re using the image of. Cinema is an art that elevates humankind, and artificial intelligence does the exact opposite. It’s a danger,” Barde said.
And while he stands in solidarity with the strike, he has opted “to maintain all the tributes which will pay homage to careers” and have been prepared for up to a year.
“I want the American film community to understand that maintaining the homages doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the strike,” he said. “On the contrary, I’m supportive of it and I would never want to deprive actors and actresses from these tributes because they’re not coming due to this strike.”
To make up for the absentees, Barde has lured a raft of international filmmakers and talent, such as French director Rebecca Zlotowski, who will present the tribute to Portman, whom she directed in “Planetarium.” As part of the homage, several movies starring Portman will be screened, including “May December,” with Todd Haynes in attendance. The festival will also celebrate American filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg, who will be on the ground.
“I remember when Cannes canceled an homage to Bette Davis a while ago, when Gilles Jacob was running the festival, because she couldn’t be there to pick up their award. She was understandably furious when she learned that her tribute had been scrapped. We’d never do something like that,” Barde said.
Besides the tributes, Deauville will also maintain its entire U.S. lineup and is expecting a strong presence of American filmmakers.
He said 12 of the 14 films in competition will be represented by their directors in Deauville. In total, the fest will welcome about 24 helmers, out of 60 films selected from 300 submissions.
“Filmmakers who are not under contract with the WGA or SAG-AFTRA will come to Deauville, but they know it’s a celebration of cinema,” said Barde, who pointed out that Deauville is also a festival that caters to local audiences. “I’m not going to tell the audience, ‘Sorry, we’re not showing you this film because the actors aren’t here.’ I want to show them the film, the mise-en-scene, the talent, I want them to experience the emotions, the enjoyment.”
Barde admitted that he had hoped those films would obtain an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA, but “those who asked for it didn’t receive it.” “It’s strange,” he said, “because the guidelines were very clear about the fact that if you receive a tribute that is not linked to a movie, you can travel. All of the tributes I’m going to give aren’t tied to movies.” But, “obviously the festival is going to show their films as part of the homages. It wouldn’t make sense to honor Natalie Portman and not show ‘May December’ as part of the six or seven films I’m screening,” Barde added. He said some French actors who are also SAG members will not come to Deauville to stand in solidarity with the strike.
Despite the missing talent, this edition of Deauville Festival boasts a promising competition of American indies and includes nine feature debuts. As many as eight films in competition are directed by female helmers, notably Hannah Peterson with “The Graduates” which won a prize at Tribeca, and Joanna Arnow’s feature debut “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed.” The roster comprises Bakab Jalali’s Sundance hit “Fremont,” Sean Price Williams’ “The Sweet East” which played at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, Shane Atkinson’s thriller “LaRoy,” and John Trengove’s “Manodrome” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody, among others.
“For the last 27 years, I have been selecting American films and I’ve realized that the central theme remains the affirmation of differences in adults and adolescents, their emancipation and drive to discover oneself and become who we really are,” Barde said. “It’s a cinema that is more intimate than political, and I’m struck by the quality of the mise-en-scene, the visual style and creativity of these American indie films over the last six or seven years.”
This year’s competition jury will be presided over by popular French actor-director Guillaume Canet, and will include screenwriter-novelist Anne Berest, filmmakers Stephane Bak, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Alexandre Aja, actors Marina Hands and Rebecca Marder, music composer-singer Yodelice and screenwriter-director Lea Mysius. The other jury dedicated to emerging talent will be presided by actor Melanie Thierry, whose latest film “Captives” directed by Arnaud des Pallières will be presented in a non-competitive section dedicated to French cinema. As part of this selection, Deauville will screen its first series in its entirety: Judith Godreche’s “Icon of French Cinema,” a satire inspired by Godreche’s own life as an actor trying to make a career comeback in Paris after living in L.A. for a decade.
Some anticipated highlights include a rare conversation with French director Luc Besson, who will also present his latest film “Dogman” starring Caleb Landry Jones. The movie, which marks Besson’s first directorial outing since 2019, will have its world premiere in competition at Venice. “Dogman” is one of the only independent movies which has received an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA; as such, there is a possibility that Landry Jones will be able to attend.
Revered French actor Carole Bouquet will also participate in a conversation hosted by Deauville, in association with Chanel, which remains a partner of the festival.
For the third consecutive year, Deauville will also showcase select movies from the Cannes Film Festival: Marco Bellocchio’s “Kidnapped,” Aki Kaurismäki’s jury prizewinning “Fallen Leaves” and Thomas Cailley’s ambitious supernatural drama “The Animal Kingdom,” which kicked off Un Certain Regard. Cannes’ chief Thierry Fremaux will be in Deauville to introduce each film.
Below, find the full competition lineup.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” Aitch Alberto
“Blood for Dust,” Rod Blackhurst
“Cold Copy,” Roxine Helberg
“Fremont,” Babak Jalali
“I.S.S.,” Gabriela Cowperthwaite
“The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed,” Joanna Arnow
“La Roy,” Shane Atkinson
“Manodrome,” John Trengove
“Past Lives,” Celine Song
“Runner,” Marian Mathias
“Summer Solciste,” Noah Schamus
“The Graduates,” Hannah Peterson
“The Sweet East,” Sean Price Williams
“Wayward,” Jacquelyn Frohlich