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Nadine Gordimer Adjudicates At The Cannes Film Festival

South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer is a writer and not a film-maker. Nevertheless her presence on the jury of this year’s Cannes Film Festival injected an intellectual credibility to the 48th Festival in the South of France.

The glamour of this year’s Jury had threatened to be overshadowed by last year’s debacle when Clint Eastwood reigned as President and had his every step followed by thousands of screaming French fans. But, while the fans may not be hounding Ms Gordimer, journalists from every corner of the world grasped the opportunity to fire questions at the 1991 Literary Nobel Prize winner.

Instead of sticking out like an acacia bush among roses surrounded by film directors, actors and producers – Nadine held her own and was the most sought after of the jury, presided over by French actress Jeanne-Moreau.

In fact she reckoned that her experience of being judged a writer put her in good stead to judge the films in the official competition. “As they say, publish and be damned… or praised.” said the author who won the prestigious Booker Prize for ‘The Conservative’. “I think that being judged is something that helps people who practice an art – be it for the cinema, the stage, or as a writer like myself – to develop. There must be standards, and these can only emerge from people making judgments. The good thing about an event such as this is it’s a collective judgement and not just one person’s opinion.”

Every year the jury consists of at least 10 members who in the past included Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Gerard Depardieu and Kirk Douglas. Last year’s jury awarded the Palme d’or to ‘Pulp Fiction’, and while it’s unlikely that that type of film would rank as a premier choice for Mrs Gordimer, she did stress that she wouldn’t only be seeking out a film with a strong political message. “I cannot be swayed by my feelings for what happened in my own country,” she said, while a good film for her is one which reaches something of the truth. “I couldn’t make that very personal quality the most prominent one. Other values such as the artistic aspects, the visuals, and the use of language must be given full weight.”

Speaking of the one South African film (Waati), she said: “I’m naturally very happy that there’s a film from Africa, from my own continent, in the competition but I see this in the context of the wide range of films that are coming here from different cultures from all over the world. That’s what pleases me.”

It’s doubtful that the 72-year-old judge would have been distracted by the over 1 000 other films, out of the competition, screened during the festival, but she may have noted the arrival of Pamela ‘Baywatch’ Anderson which caused quite a stir. In sharp contrast to Ms Gordimer who has written ten novels and over a hundred short stories and essays (translated in 26 languages), Pamela’s writing talents extend to her latterly tattooed arm! But then that’s what 20 000 people gather on the French Riviera for each year: glitz and glam of babes like Pam and the culture and creativity of ladies like Nadine Gordimer.

SA Times May 31 1995

Nadine Gordimer Interview Cannes Film Festival

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