The Cannes Film Festival was originally set to be held in 1939, but was delayed for years (until 1946) by WWII. That’s just one of the interesting tidbits in “Cannes By The Numbers,” a dynamic infographic from Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International. Though that’s good cocktail party fodder, the more interesting element of the infographic is the way it illustrates the relationship between the Cannes Film Festival and the global film marketplace.
Here are Indiewire’s 5 main takeaways from “Cannes By The Numbers:”
1. The North American box office share is paltry in comparison to the rest of the world. Besides a brief spike in 2011, during which North America claimed a remarkable 34% of the world’s box office share, North America’s box office has been, for the most part, steadily receding since 2009. While Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International do not relay a reason for the break in pattern, historical precedent suggests that an increase in box office often accompanies a period of economic hardship – as was the case in the 1930s during The Great Depression and once again during the global recession of 2011. Box office sales may not have increased in North America per se, but the box office share could have increased as a result of a drop in international sales – a scenario that isn’t too far-fetched given the riots that swept much of Europe that year.
2. The term “International” is much more troubling than it is helpful. Case and point, the chart entitled, “Nationality of Directors, Producers and Lead Actors.” Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International take measurements and plots them on this chart using two types of units: USA and International.
The decision to amass the filmmaking communities of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa under a single term — “International” — is troubling because it strongly supports the argument that the post-colonial era is a superficial idea rather than an ideological shift. The persistent use of this type of sweeping terminology demonstrates how, despite the physical dismantling of massive cross-continental European empires during the early part of the last century, former colonial powers still remain hard-pressed to acknowledge the cultural sovereignty of their former colonies-turned-nation-states.
To illustrate the problematic nature of the way in which the Entertainment Media Partners and Screen International infographic makes use of the term “International,” Indiewire examined the Cannes main competition line-ups from 2009 thru 2013 to see how many of the directors categorized as “International” hailed from countries outside the “Western” sphere of influence (recognizing that the term “Western,” is also problematic particularly when it comes to Russia and Eastern Europe).
Between the years of 2009 and 2013, Cannes took an average of six films per year with directors that came from various parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This number includes directors who had a film in competition that had not be produced in their country of origin – as was the case with a few different Iranian filmmakers.
3. The total number of screens in a country has nothing to do with its box office admissions. According to the “Cannes By The Numbers” chart comparing the number of screens in different countries, as of 2013, the USA had 39,945 screens — more than twice the number in China and more than three times the number in India.
When comparing total admissions, however, India tallied twice the number of admissions tallied by the USA.
4. In the past five years, India – home to one of the world’s most prolific film industries with a consistently robust viewership – has not had a film accepted into competition at Cannes. The key phrase here is “in competition.” Indian films have screened at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard and other Cannes parallel programming categories. Anurag Kashyap, one of India’s leading independent film voices, has had his films screen at Cannes as part of the Director’s Fortnight, Midnight Screenings and out of competition. However, no Indian film — at least in the past five years — has been accepted into the main competition, which would make it eligible for the prestigious Palme D’Or prize.
5. Cannes is paradox at its finest. For almost 70 years now, the festival has managed to balance its elitist, borderline aristocratic reputation with a progressive agenda. The festival is just as well known for its glamorous red carpets as it is for championing the work of budding filmmakers whose voice it finds interesting. The “Cannes By The Numbers” infographic, however, captures it best — beginning with a chart that projects the number of attendees at this year’s Marché du Film to reach 18,000 and then followed by a brief note reminding us that the real deals, or as they put it “the biggest deals,” get made on luxury yachts. Indeed.