CANNES, France — Shorts made on TikTok haven’t yet made it to the big screen at the Grand Théâtre Lumière, but last week the video app was accused of a Cannes faux pas: an attempt to influence a jury’s decisions .
In March, TikTok announced that it will become an official partner of the Cannes Film Festival this year. Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s artistic director, said the collaboration was “part of the festival’s desire to diversify the audience.” Billboards that read “ceci n’est pas un film, c’est un vidéo TikTok” loom over the canopies across the street from one of the main movie theaters here.
TikTok has also announced a competition for short films shot with its app. Although not an official festival event, the competition had a jury led by Cambodian-born filmmaker Rithy Panh, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime who was a regular at Cannes with films such as ‘The Missing Picture’ and ‘Exile’. .
But Panh stepped down as chairman of the jury on Wednesday, he said, two days before the awards were due to return to his role on Friday morning, hours before the awards ceremony. Panh said by email that he had quit because TikTok “appeared to want to influence our decision on award winners,” and that he returned to his post when the company agreed to respect the jury’s verdict.
“Their world, it’s not the art world,” Panh said in an interview later Friday afternoon, sitting on a bench on the deck of the beachfront restaurant where he and his four fellow judges had just handed out the prizes.
Although Panh declined to name names, he said some TikTok employees wanted to select several winners from the jury’s shortlist. It was “several people from TikTok,” he said. “One or two were very aggressive, very stubborn, very narrow-minded.”
TikTok released a statement that appeared to attribute difficulties to ordinary disagreements in the selection of winners. “As with any creative competition where the selection of a winner is open to subjective interpretation, there may be artistic differences of opinion from the independent jury,” the statement said.
Even after receiving a guarantee that the jury’s choices would be honored, Panh said his first instinct was not to return to the jury. But he said he eventually came back for the filmmakers. Some, he added, had even traveled to Cannes from Japan or New Zealand. “You just can’t break their dream, you know?”
The ceremony on Friday was hosted by social media personality Terry LTAM, who asked the judges about their experience watching the shorts. Sudanese filmmaker Basma Khalifa said the review process changed her perspective on the platform. “I haven’t given TikTok enough credit, I guess, for how much you can do with it,” she said.
Filmmakers from 44 countries submitted films for the competition, all between 30 seconds and three minutes. The top prize was split between two directors: Mabuta Motoki, from Japan, whose film showed a man meticulously building a wooden tub, and Matej Rimanic, a 21-year-old Slovenian director who submitted a black-and-white comedy film in which two people flirt. with a paper airplane. Rimanic said working on social media platforms had fueled his desire to make movies.
“I started posting videos on Vine, then I went to Instagram and then came TikTok, so I started posting to TikTok,” he said in an interview shortly after receiving his award, a gold-colored statuette in the shape of the TikTok- logo. “During this transition from me posting to videos on social media, I discovered my love for filmmaking.”
It was his first time in 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 make comedies because the world needs more laughter.”