CANNES, France — This year, the Cannes jury — which selects the winners of the Palme d’Or and the competition’s other awards — is headed by Vincent Lindon, whose limber performance in last year’s Palme winner, “Titane,” was a highlight of that movie.
The other jurors: Asghar Farhadi, who was here last year as the director of “A Hero”; the British actress and director Rebecca Hall; Ladj Ly, who shared the jury prize (kind of a third-place, honorable-mention award) in 2019 for directing a film called “Les Misérables”; the American director Jeff Nichols; the Indian actress Deepika Padukone; Noomi Rapace, the star of the Swedish “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Joachim Trier, who directed last year’s crowd-pleaser “The Worst Person in the World”; and the Italian actress and director Jasmine Trinca.
People love to spread rumors about what goes on with the jury.
Did David Cronenberg, the jury president in 1999, force his colleagues to bestow a unanimous Palme on “Rosetta,” which had screened so late in the festival that many critics didn’t even see it? (Cronenberg has denied these rumors, and in 2014, he agreed with Bilge Ebiri of Vulture that the Dardennes’ subsequent career — they went on to win the Palme again in 2005 for “L’Enfant” — had shown that choice to a good one.)
Did Pedro Almodóvar, the jury president in 2017, actually prefer the French AIDS crisis film “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” to that year’s winner, “The Square”? (For the record, I was at the news conference right after that awards ceremony, and nothing Almodóvar said suggested he had anything but sincere admiration for both films.)
Part of the problem, as Cronenberg pointed out in that interview, is that journalists create a horse race narrative as the festival unfolds, predicting the winners, often wrongly. And the festival basically treats the jury members as the human equivalent of an armored truck. Good luck getting an interview with them.
Even when the jury explains its choices, as in the closing news conference, its members don’t usually speak out of school. There are exceptions: William Goldman, in his book “Hype & Glory,” described what went on behind the scenes when he served on the 1988 jury.
Another peculiar facet of Cannes juries — which are chosen by the festival, not the jury president — is that nobody seems to care too much about the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Sean Penn judged Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” after Eastwood had directed him to an Oscar in “Mystic River.” Isabelle Huppert gave the Palme to “The White Ribbon,” directed by Michael Haneke, who had worked with her on “The Piano Teacher” and “Time of the Wolf.” And Elle Fanning was a juror in 2019, judging “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” in which Dakota Fanning, Elle’s sister, has a supporting role. (The movie left empty-handed.)