Michel Merkt, the Monaco-based former producer and consultant who’s played a key behind-the-scene role in bolstering Cannes’s profile post-pandemic, has been named honorary citizen of the city of Cannes
Merkt, an AMPAS voter who has produced over 50 films, was awarded the diploma prize by Cannes Mayor David Lisnard during an intimate ceremony on May 23. Lisnard paid tribute to the Swiss-born consultant and benefactor’s crucial backing for the city’s cultural and social initiatives.
In the last few years, Merkt has helped reinvigorate Critics Week, the Cannes Film Festival’s sidebar dedicated to first and second films, by financing the renovation of its venue, the Miramar theater. He also lent a precious financing hand to the Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight, as well as Canneseries and helped enlist top-level executives for its industry program, on top of being involved in the city’s plans to build a college campus. He also contributed to initiatives to welcome Ukrainian refugees.
“As a producer, Michel has been advocating for a real creativity and diversity in film,” said Lisnard, who also pointed out Merkt’s role as a “benefactor, a partner and a constant friend” to the city of Cannes and to the country. Lisnard said Merkt came to the rescue “fast and strong” to fund “many projects and initiatives, some of which needed immediate action to help the local life.” He also described Merkt as “a man of engagement” and action” who has stood out for his “humanity and sensitivity.”
Merkt, who began his career in the film industry as journalist for Canal+, was visibly moved as he took the stage and said his first memory of Cannes dated back to when he was a child and visited some friends of his parents who lived in a residence called “California.” “It made me dream of cinema already at that age. “In 1999, I was one of the first interns of Canal+ at the Cannes Film Festival, then I presented here my first short in 2007, and my first movie at Directors Fortnight in 2012.” From then on, he presented dozens of critically acclaimed movies at Cannes, from Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” to Paul Verhoven’s “Elle,” Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only The End of the World,” David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s “Bacurau.” “In 2014 I tried to stop producing because I was tired but then when Julianne Moore won the Palme d’Or for best actress that year I decided that I would continue a bit more,” said Merkt, who eventually retired from producing a couple years ago after some health issues and now works mainly as a consultant for film festivals and private institutions. The well-connected player presided over last year’s jury for the Locarno Film Festival and helped secure Quentin Tarantino’s venue at Directors Fortnight with a masterclass.
Merkt said he was touched to receive this honor from the mayor because they “both like challenges and aren’t afraid of long distance.” “We’re creatives who are more interested in finding solutions than complaining about problems. We love people, listening to them and helping them,” he said.
“The mayor also understands the importance of partnerships between public and private institutions,” Merkt continued. “Culture has the power to bring us together and enlighten us in these difficult times. I think of our friends and families in Ukraine.” The event was attended by several French and international industry figures, including Said Ben Said, with whom he produced his biggest hits such as “Elle,” Christophe leparc, Directors Fortnight’s general secretary, and Richard Botto, Stage 32 founder.