Director Chen Kaige: Cannes China Snub ‘Not The End Of The World’

Former Palme d’Or winners discuss the inner workings of selection for the Cannes Film Festival.

Chen Kaige, the only Chinese director to win the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, dismissed the snubbing of Chinese cinema by the European festival this year as “not the end of the world” on Monday.

“Cannes is like the UN Security Council,” Chen told an audience of film officials and professionals at the Beijing International Film Festival. “Of course we’ve got a seat at the table, but unfortunately sometimes there aren’t any Chinese films.”

“But it’s not the end of the world. I’m convinced many young [Chinese] filmmakers will have the chance to take their films to Cannes,” Chen said.

Chen’s Farewell My Concubine won him the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival in a tie with Jane Campion’s The Piano in 1993.

Last week, the 70th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its much-anticipated official selection with no Chinese films chosen for the Competition, the Un Certain Regard sidebar, or special screenings.

Festival director Thierry Fremaux said that other titles, including Chinese ones, could still be added, but that “more commercial” Chinese films are “not exactly the kind of thing we should present in Cannes.”

Joining Chen on the stage at the Sino-Foreign Film Co-Production Forum, on the sidelines of the Beijing International Film Festival, was two-time Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or Award-winning director Emil Kusturica. A year ago, Kusturica claimed he was snubbed by the Cannes Film Festival over his support for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

However, Chen steered clear of any suggestion that the decision to overlook Chinese films by Cannes this year had been a political decision.

“Cannes cares about who the director is — they don’t care which country their movie is from,” Chen said.

Also joining the Palme d’Or winners in attendance were Bollywood idol Aamir Khan, Huayi Brothers Vice President Jerry Ye Ning, Random Films co-founder Ged Doherty, and The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen.

Chen, whose new film Legend of the Cat Demon (妖猫传) is scheduled to hit Chinese screens in December, did have some advice for young Chinese filmmakers.

“One thing I think is quite important for anyone wanting to be a director is if you can get a producer who understands you and is willing to support you, who can help you make the movies you want to make, that’s a really nice thing.  Otherwise, there will just be conflicts  and other problems.”

“I’m pretty lucky myself because my wife is my producer,” Chen said to laughs. “She’s always been very supportive – so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her.”