Cannes Film Festival 2021

Francophile actress Jodie Foster to receive Honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes

American actress and director Jodie Foster, at the Cannes Film festival, in 2016.
American actress and director Jodie Foster, at the Cannes Film festival, in 2016. Loic Venance AFP/Archivos

American actress and director Jodie Foster will receive the Honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and will be guest of honour at the opening ceremony on 6 July. It seems the stars are aligned for this year’s extravaganza, clearly making up for lost time after the cancelled 2020 event with several new elements and a promise of more interaction with the general public.

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The countdown is on. Organisers of the Cannes Film Festival got the ball rolling with several announcements this week, including the official selection of this year's films in and out of competition, and the news that Jodie Foster would be receiving the special prize for her contribution to cinema.

Foster is no stranger to the international film festival, and indeed has a unique relationship with France.

She came to the Croisette for the first time at age 13 in 1976 to showcase Taxi Driver alongside Robert DeNiro. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese went on to win the Palme d’Or – the coveted Golden Palm.

“Cannes is a festival to which I owe so much, it has completely changed my life,” Jodie Foster told organisers.

The two-time Oscar winner has had seven of her films screened at the festival over the years, including two that she directed: The Beaver in 2011 and Money Monster in 2016.

Jodie Foster (centre) beside Julia Roberts (R) and George Clooney (L) defending their film 'Money Monster' at the Cannes Film Festival, May, 2016.
Jodie Foster (centre) beside Julia Roberts (R) and George Clooney (L) defending their film 'Money Monster' at the Cannes Film Festival, May, 2016. AFP

A way to honour artists

"Showcasing one of my films here has always been a dream...Cannes is a festival by auteur film-makers who honour artists."

"Jodie never ceases to reinvent herself," Festival General Delegate, Thierry Frémaux said.

"She questions with her piercing gaze, learns from others, and is willing to step back from her beliefs in order to forge new morals. Do what is fair. An idea that she strives to convey in the decisions she makes as an actress and director, and which makes her so precious during our confusing times. We will honour her with warmth and admiration!"

Past winners of the honorary Palme include Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Agnes Varda and Jane Fonda.

Foster has maintained a strong connection to France and learnt the language as a teenager.

She spent nine months in France and starred in Moi, Fleur Bleue in 1977. She also appeared in Claude Chabrol's Le sang des autres in 1984 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 2004 film Un long dimanche de fiancailles.

"I am flattered that Cannes thought of me and I am very honoured to be able to share a few words of wisdom or tell an adventure or two with a new generation of film-makers," she said in the statement.

It also seems timely that a woman with a full career both in front of and behind the camera has been chosen to receive the Honorary Golden Palm award.

Foster has been very vocal about parity in the film industry and made a speech at the 2016 Festival de Cannes during Women in Motion.

She featured as the narrator for the documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, by Pamela B. Green, dedicated to the first ever and long-forgotten French filmmaker who was secretary to Léon Gaumont, founder of the Gaumont Film Company.

She has also been active in a project to restore the work of Dorothy Arzner, exposing struggles surrounding class and gender.

New developments for 2021 edition

This year's festival  6-17 July, with a jury headed up by US director Spike Lee, has several new features and hopes to fully capitalize on the further lifting of Covid restrictions from 30 June.

As well as the Lumière Theatre, a new 2,400 seat-complex will open in time for the festival known as the Cineum, in the La Bocca quarter. The festival will inaugurate four of the 12 auditoriums.

The Cineum backs on to a new audiovisual studies campus that will take in its first 900 students in September.

A special section has been created to showcase films focused on the environment, and a portion of each entry fee is dedicated towards 'green' initiatives such as waste reduction and use of recycled materials.

On top of the usual sections of the competition, organisers have made a new categories known as Cannes Premières and the Midnight Screening.

The festival organisers have also stressed the importance of further opening up the event to the general public, to make the most of the summer holiday season, with beach screenings and other events.

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