Daniela Elstner, the head of France’s film promotion body UniFrance, knows her way around the Croisette, having been one of the nation’s top sales execs prior to taking up her current post.
Ahead of the 75th anniversary edition of the fest, she talks about what she has missed about Cannes and what she could do without.
What have you missed most about Cannes?
Except the 2020 edition? Discovering a film at 8:30 a.m. and staying in that emotion all day long.
What restaurant or bar have you missed?
Who has time to eat in Cannes? Maybe the coffee shop near the beach at 7:30 a.m. in the morning after my daily swim. Hot coffee with a view on the sea and a moment of peace.
Is there a specific shop you’ve missed?
Selling and buying films has been part of my professional life during my entire career. So the best shop is the movie theater and the offices of the sales agent afterwards.
Last year, Cannes was in July; this year it’s back to May. Any preference?
May, May and May. Cooler and a better time for the films in the cinema calendar year
What have you NOT missed about Cannes?
The fatigue afterwards.
Will you miss Zoom meetings or are they here to stay?
I will clearly not miss them, as they will stay. After negotiating the merger of UniFrance with TV France international entirely on Zoom, I learned a lot of things. Mutual respect is strangely more difficult to maintain over a Zoom meeting than in real life. In this sense, I hope we will be back to physical meetings in most situations.
Strangest request you’ve ever received in Cannes?
Probably the phone call of the DGSI (French Secret Services) to come to check out our booth. I thought it was a joke to stress me even more than my usual stress state. It took me a while to realize they were for real – and they needed to tell me a lot of things about my personal life to make me believe them. Life as a sales agent, selling documentaries for which directors get death threats.
Your “only in Cannes” moment?
Getting filmed by the French public channel (TV crew) when getting out of the water at 7:30 a.m. That interview was broadcast during the daily evening news show – since then, my family and friends are convinced that I am on holiday while in Cannes.
Biggest pet peeve?
Not to be able to attend as many screenings as I would like to.
Cannes guilty pleasure?
Switch off my phone and watch a film in the middle of the day without telling anybody.
One thing you won’t travel without, besides your phone?
The charger. … Post COVID, I developed the strange habit of taking bigger and bigger suitcases with me, as if I had to take half of my home environment with me on travels. Hope this will not last, as my back will clearly not support it for too long.
Most interesting celeb encounter?
Wiam Simav Bedirxan. You do not know her? Normal, right after Cannes she went back to Syria to teach. Coming only to Cannes for one screening of Ossama Mohammed’s and her documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait. Unfortunately, the images of the film are coming back constantly with the ongoing war in Ukraine. It never stops. So despite herself and sadly enough, she remains my most interesting celeb encounter.