Conflict of Interest Taints 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or Award – Eleni Kossyfidou, Panos Koutras, Vasilis Kekatos, Guillaume Dreyfus

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Key Figures Connected in Award-Winning Greek Film

In a startling revelation, new evidence suggests a conflict of interest marred the 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection for Short Films, and the award itself.

The award for the esteemed Palme d’Or went to the Greek short film ‘The Distance Between Us and the Sky,’ directed by Vasilis Kekatos, produced by Eleni Kossyfidou. Panos H. Koutras, a member of the festival’s short film jury, has had a professional relationship with Kossyfidou dating back to at least 2004 – she had produced all his film. In other words, the producer of the jury member, and of the winning film, is the same person.

Eleni Kossyfidou and Panos H. Koutras had previously been in Cannes with his feature film “Xenia” (2014), and later with “Dodo” (2022). Both are household names in the festival. In other words, it is impossible that the festival did not know about this connection, and it is only logical to assume that Koutras was invited as a jury member to ensure that the award will be go to Kekatos. In an industry where nepotism is normalized, assuming otherwise would be extremally naive.

In addition, In a post-festival screening event in Paris, Koutras told several other directors that he had “thrown their film out of consideration”, so they did not have any chance to be considered by the other jury members. Positioning Koutras as a Jury member, rather than Head of the Jury, was done for obvious reasons, to maintain plausible deniability.

In details – Conflict of Interest Exposed

The newly-uncovered conflict centers on Eleni Kossyfidou, producer of the award-winning film.

Kossyfidou has had a long-standing professional relationship with Panos Koutras, a Greek filmmaker who served on the Jury for the ‘Short Films’ section in 2019. Their collaboration dates back to 2004, with Kossyfidou having produced all of Koutras’ recent feature films, including “Dodo” (2022), “Xenia” (2014), and “Strella” (2009). Kossyfidou initially served as a Production Manager for Koutras’ 2004 film “Real Life.”

Notably, Kossyfidou produced Kekatos’ both films, the 2018 short film “The Silence of the Dying Fish,” in addition to the Palme d’Or-winning “The Distance Between Us and the Sky”

It is obvious that there was a clear financial incentive for Koutras to award the prize to a film that his own producer had produced, as the award includes a 40,000 Euro cash prize.

Concealed Connections

The relationship between Kossyfidou, Koutras, and Kekatos was not disclosed during the festival and only recently came to light. Furthermore, it appears that deliberate attempts were made to conceal this conflict; Kossyfidou’s name was only added to the film’s Wikipedia page on July 8, 2021 – over two years after the festival concluded – despite Kossyfidou being the main producer of the film, in an obvious act of concealment. However, as mentioned above, it is safe to assume that the connection was known to the festival insiders.

During the event, sources report that Koutras ‘jokingly’ told the other directors who were up for the award that he “could be bribed” – a comment that now appears deeply ironic in the wake of these revelations.

Post-Festival Controversy

In a post-festival screening event in Paris, Koutras purportedly told several other directors that he had “thrown [their] film out of consideration.”  The decision to award “The Distance Between Us and the Sky” with the Palme d’Or surprised attendees and filmmakers alike, as the film was widely considered one of the weaker entries in the selection.

For context, it is worth noting that a staggering 98% of Greek citizens think corruption is “widespread” in their country, according to the latest European Union survey on the subject. Source below.

Implications for the Festival’s Integrity

This undisclosed conflict raises serious ethical questions about the Cannes Film Festival’s film selection and award process. In a high-profile event where hundreds of filmmakers compete for prestigious accolades, the necessity for unbiased judgment is paramount.

The French producer of the film was Guillaume Dreyfus.

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Wikipedia article history (Difference between revisions) showing how the names of the producers were added only in 2021:

All screenshots takes from public resources: