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Cannes Tackles Television: Why a Global TV Festival Could Be a Gamechanger

The city of Cannes wants to launch a new TV festival to rival its famous film event. Here's what it might mean for the future of great film and great TV.

Palais Des Festivals along the Croisette in Cannes

Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The city of Cannes wants to build its own TV event, one that’s on par with its famed film festival — but it faces competition from an increasingly crowded marketplace, as well as real questions about how a television festival might best serve creators and attendees.

The Cannes Film Festival prides itself on being the most prestigious cinema showcase in the world, and for years, has resisted the notion that television exists in the same sphere. When TV does surface in the Cannes lineup — as as when Steven Soderbergh’s 2013 HBO telefilm “Behind the Candelabra” landed a coveted Official Competition slot — it’s presented in the same terms as everything else there: As a movie. However, as the line between TV and film industries become increasingly murky, the festival remained loathe to include a television component. That made it easier for the city to start its own event, one that the Cannes Film Festival may ultimately view as competition when it comes to attracting talent and high-profile projects.

“Cannes is a film festival,” artistic director Thierry Fremaux told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn last year. As for television, “we must invent a special festival for it.”

And so they have. What does it mean for the future of film and TV festivals when the world’s most famous film festival is forced to deal with a TV showcase on its home turf?

The Cannes TV Festival, Not the Cannes Film & TV Festival

The fine line between what is film and what is TV continues to dissolve. That’s especially true on the unscripted side, as projects like “O.J.: Made in America” are categorized as both (and made eligible for both Emmy and Oscar consideration). Just this week, David Lynch told reporters that he considered his 18-hour “Twin Peaks” to be one long movie. And these days, A-list talent slides effortlessly between limited-run episodic and stand-alone projects.

“Our best directors, producers, writers and actors move gracefully between movies and television,” Robert De Niro said last year at Tribeca, right before the festival’s screening of the OWN series “Greenleaf.”

That’s why Fremaux’s insistence that the Cannes Film Festival won’t include television seems a bit out of touch, as Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, and other festivals have incorporated TV into the mix without impacting their identities. Of course, the Cannes Film Festival would be the last place to acknowledge influence from other entities. “Cannes does not compete with anyone,” Fremaux told IndieWire in 2011. “Cannes is Cannes.”

READ MORE: Why TV Isn’t Working At Festivals Yet: A Modest Proposal

Regardless of the Cannes Film Festival’s stance, the city of Cannes is ready to adapt. But it’s in a race with the entire of country of France, which is also planning a major television festival that will be held in either Bordeaux, Lille, Nice, Paris or Cannes.

Cannes is already home to two of the world’s largest television markets, as MIPTV and MIPCOM showcase new TV to thousands of international attendees every year. Reports out of France speculate that the proposed Cannes TV festival would be concurrent with MIP (in April) or MIPCOM (October), which makes sense given the talent and industry already in town. But MIPTV and MIPCOM have dominated the global TV scene for decades, and will cast a huge shadow on whatever the city of Cannes tries to do with its own television festival.

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