As the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival concluded on May 25, it also marked the end of the long road for Gilles Jacob, the legend who had been an inseparable part of the 12-day annual event on the French Riviera.
Gilles Jacob attends the screening of the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) winning film 'Winter Sleep' which closes the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival 2014. This edition was the final festival for Gilles Jacob after 15 years as President of the Festival. (Photo: EPA)
Jacob (83) retired as the Festival’s President, a post he had held for the past 15 years out of the 35 he had been part of Cannes. And as he saw stars and other celebrities ascend the famous Red Steps of the Grand Theatre Lumiere for the past 12 days this year, he could not have but felt a sense of loss and pain. For, he would be descending those very steps at the head of which he had stood year after year welcoming the guests.
He told in an interview during the Festival that "there’s almost a religious aspect to the steps, as if you were going up to Heaven". And he felt that the mix of Hollywood glamour
and European art house had made Cannes the Queen of all Festivals.Read: Winter Sleep wins Palm d’Or at Cannes
Over the years, Jacob had grown into a legend whom just about everybody respected and held in absolute awe. One studio executive averred that in the days gone by, if Jacob were to shake someone’s hand on the Red Carpet, it was viewed as an incredible honour.
Jacob has often been credited with not allowing too much of commercialisation to creep into the Festival. He valued and upheld, above all, the independence of the Festival.
"Diplomatic and political independence, professional independence and financial independence, which I achieved, with much difficulty, little by little", he said.
Jacob managed to give art cinema to a wide audience or intelligent popular cinema. "They are the same thing".
Beyond these, Jacob is the man who created A Certain Regard for off-beat cinema (Kanu Behl’s Titli was part of it this year), the Camera d’Or Award for first features and the Cinefoundation to support new directors.
Next year, Pierre Lescure, a founder of Canal Plus (French cable channel), will take over as the Festival’s President. Jacob will continue to serve on the Festival’s board and as President of the Cinefoundation.
One of Jacob’s two sons is part of the foreign movie selection committee. But the patriarch does not for a moment think that there will be a family dynasty at Cannes.
Meanwhile, Thierry Fremaux, will remain the General Delegate of the Festival with Christian Jeune as the Deputy. These two men, for all intents and purposes, are the ones who actually run the Festival.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for over two decades, and may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)