(Palma) With him at the head of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, big names as well as newcomers will all have their chances: in an interview with AFP, the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund promises impartiality, even if it means leaving the Briton Ken Loach rob him of his dream of being the first to win three Palmes d’Or.
Cannes “is one of the few arenas where you have the feeling that certainly money plays a role, but that you can’t buy your position in the competition”, says the 49-year-old director, interviewed on Tuesday from the garden of his house in Campos, Mallorca.
“For example, we can make a small Iranian film directed by a 19-year-old director in DV format alongside very big budget films. And these two films should be evaluated in the same way when you watch them”, assures the man with two Palmes d’Or (The Square in 2017, and Without Filter in 2022), four weeks before the opening of the prestigious festival.
In a world cinema in full doubt in the face of the emergence of Netflix and others, Östlund displays the brave confidence of someone who excludes directing for a platform, out of love for the seventh art and out of loyalty for its distributors.
“Cinema is now one of the few places where we watch things together,” pleads the almost fifty-year-old with a rebellious wick.
“The reason it’s important to watch things together in one room is because that way we start to think about content in a completely different way. This is why cinema remains unique,” he argues.
Exactly half a century after his compatriot, the icon Ingrid Bergman, he offers himself the luxury of presiding over the jury a year after his own coronation.
For the Swede, famous for his squeaky comedies that tarnish the facade of Western societies, there is therefore no question of having prejudices.
Neither on the selection -19 films have already been announced-nor on their directors, bringing together famous names in cinema like Loach or the Italian Nanni Moretti, or a beginner like the Senegalese Ramata-Toulaye Sy.
“We will treat them as equals. We’re not going to think about the specific differences between the directors,” Östlund promises from his Mallorcan home, a town house with green shutters, plain in appearance but refined inside.
If The Oald Oak, the feature film by Briton Ken Loach, seduces the jury, he promises to put his ego aside and award him an unprecedented third Palme.
“If it’s the best movie,” he smiles, “I’m definitely going to work very hard to exceed my own selfish goals of being the first director to have three Palmes d’Or.”
“When you have the presidency in Cannes, you have to look far ahead and you can’t be too individualistic and look at yourself,” says the talkative Swede.
Which president will he be? This father of three children says he has not “decided 100%” but claims to have “always tried to have a very democratic approach to the presidency”.
The composition of the rest of the jury has not yet been revealed.
“I like to listen to what everyone is saying about the different movies, […] I don’t intend to be an authority figure in any way.” “Apart from the fact that I want to have the last word,” he jokes.
Impatient, Östlund says he can’t wait to experience “the tension and the pressure” of the festival organized on the Côte d’Azur.
La Croisette has a very personal resonance for this fan of the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke – another member of the very select club of webbed doubles – and the Swedish Bo Widerberg, author of the cult film Elvira Madigan awarded at Cannes.
“When I started making films, because I wanted to be like my heroes, I understood that Cannes was the place to screen your films because that’s where you can get attention and reach other people who watch the movies in the same way,” says Östlund.
After the festival, he will get back to work on his next opus, the seventh, which takes place in a long-haul.
With The Entertainment System is Down, Ruben Östlund hopes to “write history” by causing the greatest exodus of spectators from the Palais des Festivals.
Source of this anger? An unbearable scene of about ten minutes showing… the impatience of a child waiting to be able to play with an iPad.
From his office which he had built two years ago at the bottom of his Spanish garden, he is aiming for a new selection which would offer him a ticket for a possible third Palme in less than a decade.
“I think they’re going to respect my next movie. And of course, I’m part of the brand that Cannes represents, but if it’s not a good film, it won’t be in competition.”
“I don’t think Cannes is loyal to anyone,” said the two-time winner.