Jane Campion to preside Cannes film jury

Celebrated New Zealand director, producer and scriptwriter Jane Campion will take on a prestigious new role as head of the jury at the 2014 Festival de Cannes.

Campion - who succeeds Steven Spielberg as the jury president - holds a unique directing double in the festival’s history as the only female director to have won the Palme d’Or for The Piano in 1993, having previously collected the Short Film Palme d’Or for Peel in 1986.

Campion’s latest project - the television miniseries Top of the Lake - is also winning public and critical acclaim. Top of the Lake received two nominations at the Golden Globes, with Elisabeth Moss winning the Golden Globe for best actress in a mini-series.

The six-part series, filmed on location in Queenstown New Zealand, develops Campion’s favourite themes, portraying the splendour of nature, the outpouring of romantic passion and the revolt of women against societies dominated by violence and machismo.

Glamour industry

Campion - who last year headed the short film jury - says that she is "truly honoured" by the latest appointment and "can’t wait" for the festival (14 to 25 May) to begin.

"Since I first went to Cannes with my short films in 1986, I have had the opportunity to see the festival from many sides and my admiration for this queen of film festivals has only grown larger," Campion said.

"At the Cannes Film Festival, they manage to combine and celebrate the glamour of the industry, the stars, the parties, the beaches, the business, while rigorously maintaining the festival's seriousness about the Art and excellence of new world cinema."

Young director

When Jane Campion (now 58) first went to the Cannes Film Festival in 1986, she was an unknown young director from down-under with a portfolio of three just completed short films.

But, rather than seeing one short film in selection, Campion received the unusual privilege of a triple screening. Jane Campion had arrived and that led to her debut feature Sweetie, The Piano and more recently Bright Star.

"It is this world wide inclusiveness and passion for film at the heart of the festival which makes the importance of the Cannes Film Festival indisputable," Campion says. "It is a mythical and exciting festival where amazing things can happen, actors are discovered, films are financed careers are made, I know this because that is what happened to me!"

Campion is the latest name on the prestigious roster of female presidents which includes Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Liv Ullmann and Isabelle Huppert.

Film festival director Thierry Frémaux said organisers were proud to have Campion presiding over the jury.

"Coming from a country and indeed a continent where film is a rare but powerful phenomenon, she is one of those directors who perfectly embody the idea that you can make films as an artist and yet still appeal to a worldwide public," Frémaux said.

"We are confident that her exacting approach will be mirrored by her jury."

Family of artists

Born near Wellington - New Zealand’s capital city - into a family of artists, Jane Campion studied anthropology, then art, before turning to film, where her rise to success was meteoric.

In the wake of her acclaimed short films, which culminated in a Palme d’Or, she captivated international critics with Sweetie (1989), her first feature film, selected in competition at the Festival de Cannes.

An Angel at my Table (1990), inspired by the biographical works of New Zealand author Janet Frame, followed the theme of an extraordinary woman engaged in the painful quest to assert her identity.

She returned to competition in Cannes in 1993 with The Piano, which won the Palme d’Or as well as Best Actress prize for Holly Hunter (starring opposite Harvey Keitel). A few months later, Jane Campion, nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, instead picked up the award for the Best Screenplay.

Her subsequent works have featured several variants on female characters engaged in an intense yet often thwarted quest for fulfilment: Portrait of a Lady in 1996 with Nicole Kidman, Holy Smoke in 1999 with Kate Winslet, and In the Cut (2003) with Meg Ryan.

Her last film for cinema, Bright Star, an original vision and fictionalised biography of the poet John Keats and his muse, was presented in competition at Cannes, in 2009.

Jane Campion resides in Australia but often returns to New Zealand where she owns a holiday home near Queenstown. The Piano and Top of the Lake were both shot on location in New Zealand.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival will run from 14 -25 May 2014 in France.

More information

New Zealand film-maker: Jane Campion