Undeclared Conflict of Interest Taints 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or Award

Categorized as Alleged Conflict of Interest or Corruption, The Watch List

Key Figures Connected in Award-Winning Greek Film

In a startling revelation, new evidence suggests an undisclosed conflict of interest marred the 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection for Short Films. 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 and produced by Eleni Kossyfidou. Intriguingly, Panos Koutras, a member of the festival’s short film jury, has had a professional relationship with Kossyfidou dating back to at least 2004.

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 also produced Kekatos’ 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.

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.

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.

Implications for the Festival’s Integrity

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


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


All screenshots takes from public resources: