At 34, Brazilian journalist/critic Thiago Stivaletti, covering Cannes for the sixth time to date, will also be serving this year as a jury member for the France 4 Visionary Award as part of the 52nd International Critics' Week. He talked to Relaxnews about his experience midway through this year's festival.
Relaxnews: What's your take on the competition midway through the festival now?Thiago Stivaletti: The first part was very meager and I think the whole press agrees a little with that. We were expecting more competitors. Of the films I've seen, the one that succeeded in surprising me was Jia Zhangke's "A Touch of Sin." It's quite a powerful film compared to the director's usual register. This is the first time he's used so much violence in his work. And he does it in a very original way.... Besides Jia Zhangke, the other film that hit me is the Sorrentino ["The Great Beauty"]. It's a good film, pretty daring in its propositions..., but it's somehow a bit unfinished, incomplete. It's a good candidate. I wouldn't be surprised if it won a major award like the Prix du Jury or even the Palme d'Or.
R: And as for the ones to come?TS: I have high expectations for Kechiche's film because I think he's a filmmaker at the peak of his art. He's come with a long movie again this time, almost three hours. I think he might be a strong contender. I admit I'm not expecting much of Polanski and Jarmusch, who aren't on form lately.... But the biggest surprise will come from Spielberg and the jury, whose decisions are always difficult to grasp.
R: Tell us about your experience on the Visionary Award jury.TS: I'm very happy to be on it with three colleagues from France, China and Turkey. We have good discussions. It's the first time I've specifically taken part in the International Critics' Week. We critics generally focus on the [main] Competition [for the Palme d'Or]. I'm amazed at the quality of the films presented. Some very, very good first films. Filmmakers who I hope will go on to do more. Sometimes you've got to wonder why certain films aren't in the Official Selection. But it's a good thing the parallel sections show high-caliber films. Some remarkable films, every one of which is original, with distinctive aspects tied into its country of origin.
R: How do you account for the dearth of Brazilian films at Cannes?TS: I think there are two sides to this. There are failings on the part of the festival and on the part of Brazil. Brazil is still a little lacking in creative capital, in people really training for cinema, especially in the field of screenwriting. We have a shortage of good screenwriters. And good stories. There's still a tradition over there of the auteur who does everything, completes and shows his film, without calling in people who might help improve aspects of the screenplay.
Also, I think Brazilian directors and producers have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror. I've talked about it with Brazilian colleagues and this is something profoundly Brazilian in fact. The Brazilian people have always had a hard time looking at their faults, their problems. We really have a tendency to show only our good sides. So there are both writing and training issues as well as a more philosophical issue, as I'd put it, which concerns Brazil as a country a little too eager to give a good impression.
R: And how is the festival at fault?TS: I don't think there's any bad faith involved. But sometimes you've got to dig a little deeper. I know that there are two or three films a year in Brazil that deserve to be at Cannes. These are films with original voices, but it's always funny for us Brazilians, who naturally see our own films in a different light. Some films that we don't find all that good have been selected for Cannes. I think Cannes and other festivals need to make a little more effort to find other films, in some cases films that are very small but worthwhile and deserve to be shown.
R: What was your finest memory of the Cannes Film Festival? TS: As a kid who loved cinema, it was very moving for me to get a chance to interview Jodie Foster. She was one of my muses, along with Michelle Pfeiffer, for her role in "The Accused" (1988). Another funny thing that made me very famous in Brazil, at least among my colleagues [smiles]: I asked Woody Allen a question at a press conference about "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (2010). I remember I was extremely nervous about asking that question. And in the end it was included in the film "Woody Allen: A Documentary" that came out last year. All my friends called me, saying "What in the world are you doing in the Woody Allen documentary?" [laughs].