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Steve Spielberg
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Steve Spielberg

Steven Spielberg just finished a strenuous and busy year of promoting “Lincoln,” and even though the 66-year old-director went home empty handed at the Academy Awards, he just received a prestigious honor from the 66th Cannes Film Festival. Spielberg agreed to head up the jury of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, which takes place from May 15 – 26, 2013.

“Steven Spielberg accepted in principle two years ago,” declared Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the Festival on the Festival’s website. “He was able to make himself available this year to be the new Jury President, and when meeting him these last few weeks it has been obvious he’s excited about the job. Because of his films, and the many causes he holds dear, he’s year-in year-out the equal of the very greatest Hollywood filmmakers. We are very proud to count him among us.”

Spielberg’s history with the Festival goes back more than three decades. The director established particularly close ties in 1982 when “E.T.” premiered at Cannes.

Gilles Jacob, the President of the Festival de Cannes, said in the release, “Steven Spielberg is a Cannes ‘regular’: ‘Sugarland Express,’ ‘Color Purple,’ but it was with ‘E.T.’ that ties were made of the type you never forget. Ever since, I’ve often asked Steven to be Jury President, but he’s always been shooting a film. So when this year I was told ‘E.T., phone home,’ I understood and immediately replied: ‘At last!'”

“The memory of my first Cannes Film Festival, nearly 31 years ago with the debut of E.T.,” Spielberg said, “is still one of the most vibrant memories of my career.”

He adds, “For over six decades, Cannes has served as a platform for extraordinary films to be discovered and introduced to the world for the first time. It is an honor and a privilege to preside over the jury of a festival that proves, again and again, that cinema is the language of the world.”

Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford
Steven Spielberg & Harrison Ford on the Raiders of the Lost Ark set

We’re not sure how “The Jurassic Park” director is swinging it since, according to IMDB, he is the executive producer of nearly a dozen projects this year, but it’s a lucky break for Cannes. The Festival has always been a mix of highbrow cinema and cheesy behavior — sometimes side by side — but it is also considered one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

It has been known to launch a director’s career. Or in the case of established directors like Michael Haneke, who chose to premiere “Amour” at Cannes, he got a ready-made international audience, and the movie went on to win numerous accolades and trophies, culminating in the Oscar for best foreign film.

Last year, the festival was criticized by some women groups, especially La Barbe, the French Feminist action group, who were outraged that none of the 22 films that the programmers and leaders of the Festival chose for competition were directed by women. It will be interesting to see what Spielberg can bring to the festival line up.

The Cannes Film Festival press release notes of Spielberg: “His filmography is a constant to and fro between dream and reality, switching from entertainment films to serious reflections on history, racism or the human condition, testimony to his hope for a peaceful, reconciled world.”

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