It is difficult to imagine the Festival de Cannes making any more newsworthy announcements, as the festival is already legendary among filmmakers, industry and media personalities alike. Yet on Wednesday, March 23, Cannes made history when the board of Directors of the Association Française du Festival International du Film elected Iris Knobloch as the first woman President in the festival's history. Knobloch will replace current President Pierre Lescure who will step down from his position on June 30, 2022, at the end of his current mandate.
Knobloch is a lawyer who speaks three languages and who received law degrees from Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich and New York University, in the U.S.. Knobloch describes herself as “a translator”, in the sense that she has always helped the Hollywood studios understand the specific challenges of the French cultural peculiarities and defended a personal ideal that creation and reason need each other. Practicality is needed to transmit the dream of filmmaking to audiences, in other words.
Her career is proof of that. After a 25-year tenure in various leadership roles at WarnerMedia, including 15 years as the CEO of Warner Bros. France, Knobloch was given greater responsibility in 2020 as she became the CEO of WarnerMedia France, Benelux, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland –- and as such, she oversaw the development and implementation of WarnerMedia’s strategy by coordinating all commercial and marketing operations in the territory.
In fact, during all those years as the CEO of Warner France, Knobloch has brought to Cannes and supported some of the finest international auteurs: Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven’s 25th anniversary, Christopher Nolan who supervised the restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Steven Soderbergh for Che, a film which earned Benicio del Toro the Best Actor Award, Woody Allen for both Vicky Cristina Barcelona and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Dámian Szifrón for Wild Tales, produced by K&S in Argentina and Pedro Almodóvar, Baz Luhrmann for The Great Gatsby, George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road and much more.
As per the Festival’s regulations, the election was held via secret ballot and Knobloch was elected President of the Festival. She is going to be the first female President of the International Film Festival and will take office on July 1 and her three-year mandate will cover the 2023, 2024, and 2025 editions.
Knobloch would like to extend her gratitude to the Board members of the Festival de Cannes for electing her as President and said: "I feel deeply honored that France has elected me President of the Festival de Cannes. As a heartfelt European, I have always stood for cinema throughout my career, both in France and internationally, and I’m thrilled to be able to give my all so that this world event remains influential – it’s a major event that is key to keeping alive the cultural life of a world that, more than ever, desperately needs it. A film of cinema seen in a theater remains a key artistic expression and the Festival de Cannes, with its selection so unique, shows the way every year. I can’t wait to start a collective debate with the Board of Directors, General Delegate Thierry Frémaux, and all of the film industry players to carry on what has been accomplished and to map out the future history in the light of the new challenges coming. Eventually, I would like to thank Pierre Lescure for the wonderful work he has done for the Festival over the past eight years and, in advance, for the discussions we will have, to prepare the transition over the next few months."
General Delegate Thierry Frémaux added: "My team and I are thrilled to see Iris Knobloch join us. Her election will help strengthen the Festival’s resolve to stay as close to its beliefs as possible. We have many challenges coming our way and we will do our utmost to make sure cinema and the Festival that embodies it, occupy the position they deserve while strongly affirming their artistic and political necessity."
Knobloch feels that in her career, one film epitomizes her work ethic – The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius, produced by Thomas Langmann and picked up by the Weinstein company which pushed the film to the Oscars where it won five statuttes including Best Picture. Knobloch points to this silent black and white French film that she had to explain and defend, like so many other French films, before it went on to be the worldwide hit we all know and earned Jean Dujardin the award for Best Actor in Cannes. It also marked one of the most memorable connections between Knobloch’s professional commitment and the Festival de Cannes as a promoter of great films.
In 2008, she was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
The Festival de Cannes will run this year from May 17 to 28. Check out their website for more information.