Iris Knobloch and the Cannes Film Festival

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Iris Knobloch is the first woman to take over the management of the Cannes Film Festival. There is no doubt as to her competence, but her relationship with a sponsor has struck some.

Iris Knobloch will be President of the Cannes Film Festival from July

In its long history, the Cannes International Film Festival has seen a lot, including scandals such as the alleged blasphemy of Luis Buñuel in 1961 or the exclusion of Lars von Trier after he gave his film “Melancholia” at a press conference in 2011 expressed sympathy for Hitler. They have also produced stars, such as Quentin Tarantino, who introduced “Pulp Fiction” there in 1994.

Now a big change is imminent: Festival President Pierre Lescure, who is taking his leave with this year's 75th Film Festival, is handing over the reins to Iris Knobloch, who will be the first female President.

But that's not all: Knobloch – daughter of the former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, – as a German will also be the first foreigner in her new job. A small revolution, because all of them Predecessors came from France.

The red carpet – an important part of the film festival in the international struggle for stars

The French film industry is not new territory for the 59-year-old. After training as a lawyer in Munich, she held various management positions for 25 years worked in the European business of the US film studio Warner Bros., including 15 years as Chair of the Warner Bros. France Group. She then managed Warner Bros. operations in France, Germany, the Benelux, Austria and Switzerland.

She emphatically demonstrated her instinct for success when the question was whether the film “The Artist” by director Michel Hazanavicius should be invited to the Cannes competition in 2011. The prevailing view in the French industry was that black and white silent film was too mainstream for exclusive Cannes.

Sense of success

But Knobloch prevailed – and “The Artist” became a great success. The French leading actor Jean Dujardin won the award for best actor in Cannes. It was also recognized at the Academy Awards, where “The Artist” received four other trophies, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The French box office hit grossed over 130 million US dollars worldwide. As luck would have it, Hazanavicius will be presenting his new film this year in Cannes: The zombie comedy “Final Cut” – Original title “Z (comme Z)” – a remake of the Japanese template “One Cut of the Dead”, opens the festival on May 17th.

Jean Dujardin as “The Artist”, which probably wouldn't have run in Cannes without Iris Knobloch's influence

Knobloch's instinct for the mainstream and her connections to Hollywood could be a major asset for Cannes, which has long struggled to balance its position as the world's leading showcase for art house and avant-garde cinema with the need to compete to invite big American films and stars along with other festivals.

As President, however, Knobloch will not directly decide on the future program of Cannes. This task remains with the artistic director Thierry Frémaux. It will be Knobloch's task to find a middle ground between the artistic demands on the one hand and the expectations of the solvent sponsors on the other.

Not quite silent

The sponsors are interested in maximum attention and can't get enough of the glamor and paparazzi. Social media platform TikTok is one of the sponsors of this year's edition of the festival.

Despite her undoubted skills, Iris Knobloch's appointment did not come without a murmur. After retiring from Warner last year – shortly before the company's merger with the television empire Discovery – Knobloch, together with the French businessman François-Henri Pinault  led investment company Artémis the 250 million euro media investment company I2PO.

Intertwined with a sponsor 

Pinault is not only the husband of Hollywood star Salma Hayek, but also the owner of the luxury goods giant Kering , which owns, among other things, the Italian fashion company Gucci. Kering, in turn, is one of the sponsors of the Cannes festival, leading critics to speculate that Knobloch's connection to Pinault was the deciding factor in her appointment as the new president in March.

However, Knobloch was quick to avoid any potential conflicts of interest when she announced that I2PO will not invest in film companies that have a connection to Cannes.

German adaptation: Torsten Landsberg