He was responsible for bringing Tears of the Black Tiger to the fest in 2001, and Blissfully Yours and Monrak Transistor in 2002. Last year, it was Tropical Malady.
The Bangkok Post caught up with Jeune, who always has his eye out for new films from faraway lands.
He hoped to hit a jackpot, like he did last year when he fished out an obscure gem, the Thai independent film Tropical Malady, which went on to make history by nabbing a prize from the fest in May. Indeed Christian's been on a lucky streak with Siamese directors: in 2001 he left Bangkok with the oddball Fah Talai Jone (Tears of the Black Tiger) on his list, and in 2002 the amiable Frenchman bagged a double-bill Monrak Transistor and Blissfully Yours to Cannes.
"Frankly Bangkok hadn't been my destination before," says Christian. "But after I saw Tears of the Black Tiger, I knew I had to make the city my necessary stop. Thai cinema might've been living in its own world for quite some time, but now that it's ready to open up, we can see that something exciting is happening here."
"I get asked that a lot -- what are your criteria?" Christian says. "No. We don't have any criteria, except the technical ones like the deadlines of the submission and that the film must never have be shown at other festivals before, etc. But generally, like most people, I watch films and I end up liking it or not liking it, and I can explain why I like or not. It begins from that. Of course there're a basic idea that the film must show strength in certain ways. But we don't have checklists; it'd be easy if we have a formula, but unfortunately we haven't.
"The only suggestion I can give to filmmakers is this: Don't make movies just because you want to go to festivals, Cannes or anywhere else. A director should concentrate on doing his job, that is to present his passion, his obsession, his belief, his story. And he should make a movie that's true to himself _ and not just make something that looks like what the rest of the world is doing."
His fresh example is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady, that strange little Thai film that was nominated into the paragon of Cannes this year. Christian says he was immensely excited when he first saw the film that brimmed with such confidence, and he trusted his instincts to include it in the coveted Official Competition despite knowing all the risks involved in promoting this little-known Thai filmmaker and his peculiar, potentially divisive movie. But that's the appeal of Cannes: it's ready to take risks, to gamble on films that would attract as many bricks as flowers. Because when it works, the payoff is always worth it.
"To be a filmmaker in a country that's not structured for the advent of art cinema must be really difficult," he says. "What a director needs is to remain strong and to be firm in his visions. An artist like Apichatpong wouldn't have to worry about how to make his movies if he lived in France, where there is so much support. But to do that in Thailand means he must carry something really strong inside him, and that's what other directors should have, too, [if they wish to go as far]."
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)