What mindset are you adopting for your role as a member of the jury?
A very hardworking and studious one: I’m on my sixth film! For me being part of this jury is a gift fallen from heaven. When I was offered the opportunity to be one of the eight jury members of this 71st edition, I first thought it was a joke. I immediately accepted of course. Even today I still don’t understand why I was chosen! It’s a great honour and a great sign of respect since the Palme d’or is an important award in the life of a film and a director. I’m taking my role very seriously.
Which criteria will you defend the most?
I’ll defend emotions. It’s very important point common to all the members of this jury. I was asked not to judge the films on their technical merits but rather on two aspects that are very comprehensible to me: emotion and feelings. Of course, the technical criteria will then have to be used to decide between those works that touched us the most. This will be the time when the cinema professionals on the jury will have to express themselves.
Let’s go back in time: What was your first striking experience with cinema?
I used to go to the cinema a lot when I was young, before leaving Burundi. My friends and I didn’t have any money, so we would smooth talk the usher, whom we knew well, but he was afraid of getting into trouble. Eventually, he’d let us in, but sometimes we’d miss the start of the film because we had to negotiate with him for a long time. I watched a lot of French feature films as well as Westerns and Kung Fu movies. I especially loved films starring Louis de Funès, who was a giant in cinema. He played the same role of the irascible policeman, but it always worked! Charlie Chaplin also inspired me. They were both giants.
Have you ever been tempted by cinema?
Yes, but nobody ever offered me anything! Right now would be the most appropriate time. In addition to Cannes, I’ve been invited to the Zanzibar Film Festival, which is being held in July. I believe that cinema is sending me a discreet invitation!
Up to now, Jeanne Moreau has been your only connection with cinema. She was the one who in 2000 produced the music video for your song “Mama”. How did this collaboration come about?
Yes, this is the only connection I have with cinema, but what a connection! At the time, she had just finished producing videos for Air France, and I thought they were excellent. I went to talk to my record company to ask them to contact Jeanne Moreau. Everyone had a good laugh and sarcastically replied, “And why not Spielberg too while you’re at it!”. But she immediately accepted. She wrote a magnificent storyline that I’ll never forget. For me, she represented freedom. She was a free-thinking woman, and with the benefit of age she became even more so. She was a role model. I’m very happy since it’s the only music video she ever shot.