"The controversies pass, the Cannes Film Festival remains"

A book dedicated to Hellfest, a rock and metal music festival, is placed on the long work table in the center of his office

"The controversies pass, the Cannes Film Festival remains"

A book dedicated to Hellfest, a rock and metal music festival, is placed on the long work table in the center of his office. Among the other books on small shelves are the interviews between Obama and Springsteen, The Conquest of Knowledge by Isaac Asimov, Pensées by Marc Aurèle, La Grande Illusion by Michel Barnier, Les Soixante-Quinze Feuillets by Marcel Proust, Reste in your place by Sébastien Le Fol, or Les Unes de Charlie-Hebdo 1969-1981.

Alongside numerous framed posters from past editions of the Cannes Film Festival, there are also other trophies under glass hanging on the wall not far from a punching bag: a photo with Obama, another with Spielberg, a portrait of the late Lemmy Kilmister, the lead singer of the metal band Motörhead, one of the city's idols along with Iggy Pop.

Mayor LR of Cannes since 2014, David Lisnard, 54, is a motley and rock'n'roll political animal. In the midst of the 76th edition of the festival, he reacts, for Le Point, to the various broncas which, according to some, have plunged the event into "turmoil" this year. And on some of these files, this boxing enthusiast practices more uppercut than dodging.

Le Point: What is your assessment at the halfway point of this 76th Cannes Film Festival?

David Lisnard: The mid-term review looks very positive to me. The presence of the world of cinema during the first week was of a rare international density, probably never reached. I'm not just talking about American stars like Michael Douglas, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, De Niro and others, but also producers, agents, platform CEOs and independent producers.

Hollywood is there, Asia is there, and during this first week, professionals flocked to make the cinema of today and will make that of tomorrow. In terms of security and logistics, I don't like to take stock during the game, but so far everything is going well.

The Palace has not reached its limits, it is the largest establishment open to the public in the region, with 88,000 square meters of floor space. And a European leader in business tourism. The Festival is quite simply a victim of its own success. So much the better. Everyone was worried after the pandemic, both about the return of festival-goers and the return of moviegoers to cinemas.

The crowds observed in the city testify to a dynamic festival – a demarcation carried out with Orange shows that 70,000 people on average are in the perimeter of the Palace –, a reinforced presence of the market and a certain interest from the general public. .

The data transmitted by the Festival indicates 40,000 accredited festival-goers, the Palace and the city have quite the capacity to absorb this. Every morning, safety meetings make it possible to adapt the systems. As for the works envisaged, they mainly concern the renovation of the interior street and the Salon des Ambassadeurs, scheduled for 2025 and 2026.

Prices are set freely by the restaurants and the town hall has no regulatory power in this area. However, I recently alerted the president of the restaurateurs' union by mail, following the Mipim [the international market for real estate professionals] because we noticed that certain establishments were charging abnormal prices.

This is unfortunately the case in other cities during major events such as Paris, Venice or London. We must also meet soon to discuss the subject and find solutions to limit this phenomenon, which is the work of a minority. The strength of Cannes is its reliability and that is what we want to offer our visitors.

The CGT organized demonstrations on the boulevard Carnot and towards the station, on May 21 and 23, in protest against the pension reform…

The CGT had announced with drums and trumpets that it would disrupt the Festival. Race report: she missed her shot, she didn't disrupt the event in any way. On the other hand, it has disrupted the world of work which it claims to defend since it has cut off the gas in certain restaurants and caused some traffic problems. I am for total freedom of expression, but I am against the right to obstruct. The right to strike is not a right to sabotage.

So not only has the CGT remained invisible in the eyes of the national and international media, but it has managed to make itself even more unpopular with the local working world, which only needs events, its essential work tool throughout throughout the year, is respected. Finally, she succeeded in endangering the life of an elderly person by throwing an agricultural bomb not far from her. The person suffered a cardiac arrest but was able to be resuscitated: we are still awaiting an apology from the CGT.

I said what I had to say about it: the municipal police do very demanding work throughout the year, in total impartiality, in a difficult city of Cannes. The policeman did his job and he did it well, that's all. He wants to remain discreet because he is very hurt by the notoriety these images are gaining on the Web, but I can tell you that he is encouraged in his work.

No one is above the law, Thierry Frémaux either. It's a non-deal. On the other hand, just as you should never harass someone who wears a backwards cap, you should never harass someone who wears a tuxedo. On social networks, the far right has unfairly attacked Thierry Frémaux, who has been called an icon of wokism. I didn't like that.

The milieu of artists who sign in Libé is not my universe…

This is a vast debate that affects the cultural milieu. Culture is your universe, you even gave it a try…

I have been following this case, but I have seen so many controversies like this… The Cannes Film Festival must be what it has always been: an event that feeds on its paradoxes. It is all the richness and the singularity of this festival that one can hate or love, to which one makes all the most contradictory reproaches. But whatever one says, the controversies pass and the Cannes Film Festival remains. It has been reported to be in decline for years.

No it is wrong. First of all, Cannes' real competitor is the Berlin festival, which also has a real film market. Venice is an interesting event but it doesn't have the same outreach at all. This festival doesn't have a market or the same screening infrastructure and I think they've gone too far with Netflix. Only in France do we talk so much about Venice... For some reason, it's hard to recognize that we have the biggest cultural festival in the world.

To answer your original question: what remains are the works. A work resists its author, as Hannah Arendt said. I am wary of posturing and moral injunctions, such as left-wing McCarthyism and wokist puritanism. So it would have been necessary to censor a work, not to select it because an actor was implicated in a divorce case at the end of which he was not even condemned? Proponents of this position cause harm to female victims of male violence by trivializing all situations.

Adèle Haenel announced a few days ago to leave the cinema because he "participates in an ecocidal and racist order" and promotes "the impunity of sexual predators". Is there such impunity in the world of cinema?

I am neither a judge nor a prosecutor! It is up to the courts to decide these cases, this is called the rule of law, the only way to protect freedoms. Not everyone is guilty a priori because it has been decided that he is guilty. The remarks that you report to me are extremist, they do not defend the cause of women well, it is a posture, a sentence on the part of people who have a lot of certainties.

I am staying in my place as mayor, I would just remind you that the city of Cannes was a pioneer in the protection of women with the creation of a shelter for battered women in collaboration with State services, and with a very strong policy of support for victims of domestic violence.

I find it serious to morally disqualify people and events like the Cannes Film Festival until justice has ruled. Ms. Haenel's withdrawal is certainly damaging to the cinema, she has talent... But I invite her to get involved in politics to defend her ideas. You can't lynch without a trial. And any trial must not be a Puritan inquisition trial, but established on the basis of facts and legal elements. Otherwise, it's the potential drift towards all forms of totalitarianism… And all that from people who denounce the scourge of the extreme right.

I have long supported a proactive approach to this. We just have to be careful that state money does not create distortions of competition to the detriment of private investment. Take care not to support projects that are not really profitable or solid in their financial round or in the availability of land. And there are some in this plan – I won't name which ones – so let's be careful.

Distortion of competition is also a problem in events. It is scandalous, for example, that 6 million euros of public money support, each year, an event, Series Mania in Lille, which has positioned itself on the dates of MIP TV when the latter has existed for fifty years. We had, with MIP TV, the first global meeting of the audiovisual industry, with 100% private financing.

What projects are you referring to among those that have been selected?

I don't have to say it here, I alerted the services concerned to certain projects for which the land was not assured and whose round table was not closed, I was guaranteed that these projects would finally be out of the game. I repeat: projects must not be artificially under public infusion and disrupt private investment.

What is the partnership between the city of Cannes and the organization of the festival?

There is a contractual partnership of two kinds. A convention between the city of Cannes and the French Association of the Cannes International Film Festival, the Affif, chaired by Iris Knobloch; and a second partnership between Semac, the managing body of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, a company governed by private law but whose majority shareholder is the city, and Affif. This partnership provides for the provision of spaces and the conditions for this provision, a guaranteed duration for the month of May with priority dates for the festival. It brings all the material and organizational security to the Festival.

The city of Cannes subsidizes the Festival to the tune of 2 million euros, plus a logistical provision worth 4.5 million euros: planters installed to delimit traffic, beach facilities, securing the city...

In total, for the city of Cannes, it is an investment of 6.5 million euros per year. But in reality, this partnership is much more powerful because we organize several cultural operations with the festival, we work year-round with them. The city is co-creator of the festival and, as such, it is a member of the board of directors of the Affif.

What is the annual economic return to the city for this investment?

In direct, indirect and induced effects, the impact of the Cannes Film Festival is estimated at a range between 180 million and 220 million euros. Throughout the year, the impact of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is valued at 900 million. So the Cannes Film Festival alone represents between 20% and 25% of the impact of the Palais de la ville, it is far from negligible.

Do you consider yourself a movie buff?

I keep too pretentious labels, so cinephile I don't know. The first name that comes to mind when I think of cinema is de Funès, like many French people. I never get tired of his films, of Ah! the beautiful bacchantes at L'Aile or the thigh, but I also had shocks in the cinematheque like The Third Man or Citizen Kane.

The fact of going to the Cannes Film Festival as an administrator for twenty-two years has allowed me to progress in my cinephilia. For example, Kusturica's Life is a Miracle or Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, which really moved me. And then from my love for popular Belmondo films, I discovered Léon Morin, priest by Jean-Pierre Melville, Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard.

I'm going to quote you my childhood series: the seasons of Bowler Hat and Leather Boots with Diana Rigg, whom we had brought to CanneSeries the year before her death, a very great lady. Other series marked me for life: Cosmos 1999, The Sentinels of the air, The Mysteries of the West and Yours in friendship. Much later, I rediscovered the art of series thanks to The Wire and The Shield, my favorite series. On the French series side, I could cite Le Bureau des legendes and more recently B.R.I., which I found rather well done.

It raises the concern of artists and creators of the audiovisual: is artificial intelligence a threat for all these sectors?

It is both a huge threat and a huge opportunity. ChatGPT has finally become a political issue and it's an unstoppable but regulable wave. The 20th century was the century of industry, which allowed access to material goods, the emancipation of women and the increase in life expectancy. But the 20th century is also about industrial death: the butchery of 14-18, the absurdity of the Shoah...

We find ourselves in a similar pattern in the 21st century: with AI, we are in a revolution comparable to the Renaissance with new artistic expressions. The creation of stories by AI, the algorithm that allows for targeted marketing, plus a new artistic expression with the metaverse, the question of the place of man arises in this new universe.

This evolution puts the place of man back at the center of the debate and it will take philosophical and creative power to break out of the uniformity of the algorithm. The mighty Disney and Marvel are nothing compared to what we are about to experience. Mass productions will emerge written almost solely by artificial intelligence, and in this universe of uniformity, acts of creation and disruption will be vital in distinguishing man from the most powerful AI.

Artificial intelligence will be the source of the greatest emancipation possible, it will allow us to cure cancers, to solve ecological problems... but its counterpart is the risk of vertical and horizontal totalitarianism, Chinese-style social control. These issues require a political and philosophical debate on a different scale than the quarters of retirement.