Cannes Film Festival Board Elects Iris Knobloch as First Female President (EXCLUSIVE)

After several hours of heated debates, Iris Knobloch, the former boss of WarnerMedia France and Germany, has been chosen by the board of the Cannes Film Festival to become its first female president, as Variety has learned . She will succeed Pierre Lescure, who was re-elected for a third term in June 2020 and is planning to step down after the upcoming edition.

The German-born, Paris-based executive was elected by the board of directors of the Association Française du Festival International du Film, which brings together public authorities and film industry professionals, amid much controversy in France.

Knobloch stepped down from WarnerMedia in June 2021 after a 25-year tenure in various leadership roles. Before leaving the company, she oversaw the strategy as well marketing activities for WarnerMedia France, Benelux, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Shortly after, she launched a $300-million European special purpose acquisition company with powerful backers, including the French billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, who happens to run the luxury brand Kering, an official sponsor of Cannes Film Festival. During her tenure at WarnerMedia, Knobloch played a crucial role in getting Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” into Cannes’ competition in 2011 before it went on to win five Oscars.

Prior to Lescure, a resourceful journalist and top-level media executive who co-founded the pay TV group Canal Plus in 1984, Cannes was presided over by Gilles Jacob for 13 years.

Ahead of the election, a segment of the French industry flagged a potential conflict of interest due to Knobloch’s acquisition vehicle, which she launched last year and is meant to invest in entertainment and leisure industries. Others have voiced their concerns over the fact that Cannes should be presided over by a French national. Lastly, some people have pointed out that Knobloch had been pushed forward by high-profile figures within the French government, notably Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the National Film Board who is still under a formal investigation for an alleged sexual assault.

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