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CANNES, France – Short films made on TikTok have yet to see the big screen at the Grand Théâtre Lumière, but last week the video app was again accused of a Cannes faux pas: trying to influence decisions of a jury.
In March, TikTok announcement that it would be a official partner of the Cannes Film Festival this year. Thierry Frémaux, the artistic director of the festival, declared that the collaboration was part “of a desire to diversify the public” of the festival. Billboards reading “this is not a movie, this is a TikTok video” stand above awnings in front of one of the main cinemas here.
TikTok has also announced a competition for short films shot on its app. Although not an official festival event, the competition had a jury headed by the Cambodian-born filmmaker Rithy Panha survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime regularly present in Cannes with films like “The Missing Picture” and “Exile”.
But Panh leave the presidency of the jury on Wednesday, he said, two days before the awards ceremony, to reprise his role on Friday morning, hours before the awards ceremony. Panh said via email that he resigned because TikTok “seemed to want to influence our decision on the winners,” and returned to his post when the company agreed to respect the jury’s verdict.
“Their world is not the art world,” Panh said in an interview later Friday afternoon, sitting on a sofa on the terrace of the beachfront restaurant where he and his four fellow jurors had just given the prizes.
While declining to name names, Panh said some TikTok employees wanted to select different winners from the jury’s shortlist. It was “several people from TikTok,” he said. “One or two were very aggressive, very stubborn, very closed-minded.”
TikTok released a statement that appeared to attribute any issues to ordinary disagreements in picking the winners. “As with any creative competition where the selection of a winner is open to subjective interpretation, there may be differences of artistic opinion on the part of the independent judging panel,” the statement read.
Even after being guaranteed that the jury’s choices would be honored, Panh said his first instinct was not to come back to the jury. But he said he eventually came back for the filmmakers. Some, he added, had come to Cannes from as far away as Japan or New Zealand. “You can’t break their dream, you know?”
Friday’s ceremony was hosted by social media personality Terry LTAM, who asked jurors about their experiences watching the shorts. Sudanese filmmaker Basma Khalifa said the judging process changed her perspective on the platform. “I haven’t given TikTok enough credit, I don’t think, for all you can do with it,” she said.
Filmmakers from 44 countries submitted films to the competition, all lasting between 30 seconds and three minutes. The first prize was shared between two directors: Mabuta Motoki, from Japan, whose film showed a man meticulously building a wooden bathtub, and Matej Rimanic, a 21-year-old Slovenian director who submitted a comedy short black and white in which two people flirt using a paper plane. Rimanic said working on social media platforms sparked her desire to make films.
“I started posting videos on Vine, then I went to Instagram, then TikTok came along, then I started posting on TikTok,” he said in an interview shortly after receiving his award. , a golden statuette in the shape of the TikTok logo. “Now, during this transition of posting videos to social media, I’ve discovered my love for filmmaking.”
It was the first time he had come to Cannes, either to attend the festival or to visit the city. “I hope one day I can come here with my feature film,” he said. “I only do comedies because the world needs more laughs.”