Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Lynne Ramsay and Christoph Waltz among those joining Steven Spielberg on Cannes jury

There are more female filmmakers on the jury than in Competition

<p>Nicole Kidman at last year's Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Nicole Kidman at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

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The Cannes Film Festival waited a long time to secure Steven Spielberg as their Competition jury president, so now that they’ve finally got him, they weren’t going to give him just any motley crew of jurors to work with. The panel of eight film luminaries announced this morning is the most high-profile in recent memory, containing as it does one former Palme d’Or winner, one two-time Oscar-winning director, one two-time Oscar-winning actor, one Oscar-winning actress and two former Cannes Best Actor winners.

In 2009, Ang Lee was the president of the Venice Film Festival jury – and he’d doubtless make a worthy Cannes president too. Yet such is the star quality of this collective that simple juror status doesn’t seem a slight. And hey, only two months ago, he beat President Spielberg to the Best Director Oscar, so it all evens out. Still, neither man has a Palme d’Or to their name, so Romanian New Wave leader Cristian Mungiu can pull rank on them in that respect: he won the top prize for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” in 2007, and took Best Screenplay at last year’s fest for “Beyond the Hills.”

Spielberg and Lee aren’t the only jury members who can swap memories of the awards season just past. Reigning Best Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz – whose career was transformed at the festival four years ago, when he won Best Actor for “Inglourious Basterds” – is on board too. 17 years ago, French star Daniel Auteil won the same award for “The Eighth Day”: with memorable roles in such films as “Hidden” and “Jean de Florette” to his credit, he remains one of the biggest names in French cinema.

And that’s just the men. Festival director Thierry Fremaux may have shown a bit of a blind spot recently when it comes to picking women for the Competition lineup, but he and his colleagues have shown exemplary taste in female jury members this year – for starters, there are more female filmmakers on the jury than there are in Competition.

The "star slot," meanwhile, is filled in exciting fashion by Nicole Kidman, arguably the most risk-taking Hollywood actress of her generation. Kidman has been to Cannes with several Competition films in the past, including “Dogville,” “Moulin Rouge!” and last year’s “The Paperboy,” but has never served on the jury before; given her history of auteur partnerships, this seems an overdue honor.

Perhaps Kidman can fix some future collaborations while she’s on the jury; I for one, would love to see her get cosy with Lynne Ramsay, whose inclusion is perhaps the most unexpected and exciting of the lot. The gifted Scottish director, who competed for the Palme d’Or two years ago with “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” likely wouldn’t have been available for jury duty if she hadn’t left the set of “Jane Got a Gun” in mysterious, headline-making circumstances last month. Never let it be said that Thierry Fremaux isn’t an opportunist.

Even the least broadly familiar names on the jury are no slouches. Japanese director Naomi Kawase was a surprise winner of the Grand Prix in 2007 for her avant-garde film “The Mourning Forest” -- coincidentally, she was runner-up to Mungiu -- and has been in Competition since. Actress Vidya Balan, meanwhile, is a major Bollywood star, whose inclusion is a nice nod to the festival’s celebration of Indian cinema this year.

We can't speculate as to whether Spielberg will lend a mainstream tilt to the jury's choices or zag in the opposite direction -- but taking the reputations of Kidman, Kawase and Ramsay into account, it might well be the women who bring the danger. I'm excited to see where this group lands.    

The Cannes Competition jury for 2013 is: 

Daniel Auteuil

Vidya Balan

Naomi Kawase

Nicole Kidman

Ang Lee

Cristian Mungiu

Lynne Ramsay

Steven Spielberg (president)

Christoph Waltz

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Guy Lodge
Critic
Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.
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UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2014