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Cannes Film Festival



  • The Festival's budget amounts to approximately 20 million euros!
  • The International Film Festival was created on the initiative of Jean Zay, Minister for Education and Fine Arts, who was keen to establish an international cultural event in France to rival the Venice Film Festival.
  • The first edition of the Festival was originally set to be held in Cannes in 1939 under the presidency of Louis Lumière. However, it was not until over a year after the war ended that it finally took place, on 20 September 1946.

Cannes Film Festival

The annual Cannes Film Festival (officially Festival de Cannes), held in the French Mediterranean city that bears its name, is the Grande Dame (or Grande Dragon, depending on your point of view) of all festivals. Quite simply, it is the pinnacle of the world's top tier events. Every May in its 60-plus years it has attracted a who's who of the world's top directors, stars and cinematic wunderkinds of the moment. It is probably safe to say that cinema's post WWII history closely parallels the history of Cannes.The spectacle of stars in their tuxes and gowns ascending those famous steps up to the Palais des Festivals under the gentle sway of palm trees with screaming crowds gawking behind police barricades is a classic scene that has been repeated for decades. And the festival most certainly, in its own reserved way, encourages it. Soon-to-be popular Hollywood blockbusters screen both in and out of Cannes' competition along with films from international auteurs not as readily known by non-cineastes.

There might be a premiere of the latest installment of the "Shrek" franchise, followed by the latest from Wong Kar-wai the next day (a best director winner at the festival) or Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (a Palme d'Or winner). Some years back, George Lucas debuted the final installment in the "Star Wars" saga, and for the many hours leading up to the film's premiere in the evening, the easily identifiable sound of Darth Vader breathing was piped along the Croisette - the famous road that lines the Cannes beachfront. While Cannes is famous and obviously attracts popular attention with swarms of onlookers, both at the festival and among the massive press corps that attend every year (apparently only the Olympics attracts a larger press contingent), make no mistake - this is not a "people's festival." Even attendees who are credentialed may fall prey to the snobbery that has long been embraced. If your badge type is not a coveted color indicating your high status when attending a screening, you may find yourself up in the nose bleed area even if there are empty seats available in the chorus. And don't even think that you can easily sneak past the uniformed security (aka fashion police) if you happen to score an invitation to an official premiere.

A friend once tried to get in with a tux but had brown shoes. He was unsubtly told he would not enter. And don't even try to argue - it won't work and you'll just be further humiliated. Most likely, any given screening is probably not filled with a cross-section of society like, say, in Toronto. But, that's not to say that a filmmaker won't get a gauge of how people feel about a film. Audiences in Cannes will enthusiastically give standing ovations for work they like and boo audibly when they don't. There may even be a combination of the two as happened some years back with Cannes opener, "Moulin Rouge." Of course not all screenings are packed with glitz and even the Midnight premieres in the Palais des Festivals have a more relaxed dress code (coat and tie will suffice). The event also has its more down to earth sidebars, The Directors Fortnight and Critics Week, which may somewhat resemble screenings at other festivals (no exact dress code) and the audiences are just as opinionated. The festival's parallel event, the Marche du Film (Cannes Market) also has screenings and its event is the largest of its kind in the world. It's a must for the world's industry. Other things to keep in mind when contemplating Cannes - it's expensive.

Planning well in advance is essential because housing is hard to obtain, though it has become easier and prices have eased in recent years thanks to the financial crisis (the over the top parties have also come back down to earth - albeit a Cannes earth). Also beware of pickpockets. We know of regulars who, after leaving a window open, have had all of their belongings stolen from their rented hotels and flats while they were away. And despite the palpable glamour, there is definitely a cheesy factor. "Photographers" in tuxedos will try and take your picture and ask for money if they notice you're dressed up walking along the Croisette, and all those stately hotels that line the waterfront regularly sell out their facades hanging tacky ads for upcoming films (not necessarily in the festival), companies or products. But it's all part of the experience, and a Cannes can be one of the most exciting, memorable and surreal. [**Hint: If time allows, sneak away and eat lunch in the city's old town or better yet, take the very short train to the old town area of nearby Antibes. It's so worth it and a great escape from the convention feel of the Croisette.]

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