Abderrahmane Sissako, the Mauritanian director whose film Timbuktu made waves at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, returns this year to the French Riviera as the President of the Cinefondation and short films jury.
Often described as the Poet of Africa, Sissako follows illustrious Presidents as Abbas Kiarostami, Jane Campion, Michel Gondry, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Martin Scorsese.
Born in Mauritania but raised in Mali and trained in movie making in the then Soviet Union, Sissako crosses cultures and continents. His work is suffused with humanism and social consciousness and explores the complex relations between North and South as well as the fate of a much beleaguered Africa.
Sissako is not new to Cannes. The Game, directed by him during his final year at the film school in Moscow, was presented at La Semaine de la Critique in 1991, and this was followed two years later by his medium-length Octobre in A Certain Regard, the second most important section at Cannes after Competition.
Life on Earth and Waiting for Happiness featured in the Directors' Fortnight in 1998 and A Certain Regard in 2002 respectively, thus firmly establishing the director on the international scene.
Bamako, a political parable caught between anger and utopianism, was presented in Out of Competition in the 2006 Cannes and was followed by Timbuktu in 2014.
Timbuktu, the vibrant fictional protest against religious fundamentalism, is the first Mauritanian work to be nominated for best foreign language Oscar this year.
The Sissako jury with four other members from the world of arts will award three prizes to works submitted by cinema schools as well as the Short Film Palm d'Or on May 24, the day the 68th edition of the Festival closes.
Cannes begins on May 13.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered Cannes for 25 years and will be there this year)
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