Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 'honoured' to be first Latin American Cannes Film Festival jury president

The 2019 Cannes Film Festival got underway on Tuesday.

Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is honoured to lead this year's Cannes Film Festival jury after learning he's not only the first Mexican president, but the first Latin American.

The Birdman and The Revenant director will oversee the competition at the annual film spectacular, which began on Tuesday (14May19), alongside the likes of Elle Fanning and fellow filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Paweł Pawlikowski, and he's thrilled to be making history.

"I found out... that I’m the first Latin American person (to lead the jury), which is shocking," he tells Deadline. "The whole zone has been dismissed for 72 years. Ultimately, I feel honoured and it’s a privilege. The honour is even bigger, because of that reason."

But he admits he is going to struggle to judge his peers' films over the next 10 days.

"It was not easy for me to accept being the president of the jury," he explains. "It feels strange to me, to be judging films, and filmmakers I like a lot, and being on the other side of that.

"One of the things that made me realise it was time for me to do it was realising it was 20 years ago, in 2000, when I brought my first film, Amores Perros here. I ended up winning the Critics Week. Then it was Babel, then Biutiful, with Javier Bardem named Best Actor, then Carne Y Arena. My professional life has been in a way very close to Cannes.

"This to me was a way to honour a festival that has been the heartbeat of cinema in the world. And being the first Mexican and just finding out, also the first Latin American, I couldn’t say no. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse for emotional, professional and many other reasons."

It's not the first time he had been a jury member at a major festival - he was among the judges at the Venice Film Festival in Italy 11 years.

"Zhang Yimou was the president... and I found myself surrounded with amazing colleagues who formed the jury. To be surrounded here in the same ways, and watch films together for 10 days, sharing our perception, emotion and what hit us, and learning from each other’s sensibilities... I feel like a monkey in a fruit store. It’s fantastic."

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