There is a reason why everyone who’s anyone in the world of film descends on the French Riviera each May. Because for the past seven decades it has hosted the Cannes Film Festival. One of the biggest annual events in cinematography, this festival brings together star-studded red-carpet premieres, long days of screenings and networking, and of course, glitzy parties.
Taking place this year between 14th – 25th May, the Cannes Film Festival provides a platform for upcoming directors and actors of all nationalities. There is no other award ceremony of its size and calibre that celebrates so many international film genres. In fact it has launched the careers of many renowned filmmakers, including the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh.
Ultimately, Cannes has the power to propel a film toward success during the awards season which follows it every year. The Artist for example, premiered at Cannes in 2011, and later went on to win five Oscars including Best Picture. This was the first French film ever to win the prize.
“They are not stars because they come to Cannes; they are stars because they are in the movies.” Thierry Frémaux.
In the early days of Cannes, photographers had greater access to A-list attendees which resulted in numerous iconic shots. Among the most notable were British actress Simone Silva posing topless in 1954; French star Brigitte Bardot strolling on the beach during the festival in 1956; Italian director Luchino Visconti bringing along a cheetah; and Arnold Schwarzenegger showing off his Mr Universe physique on the beach during the 1977 festival.
While the notion of celebrity has vastly evolved over the years, celebrity status is still sacred at Cannes. Unlike other prominent film festivals such as Sundance or Toronto, Cannes is an industry-only festival. Tickets are not available to the general public and are on an invitation-only basis, meaning only the world’s top stars ever walk the famous red carpet of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Astoundingly, the legendary 24 steps require 60 metres of carpet which are changed three times a day for the duration of the film festival.
“People don’t just come to go to the beach, or to watch the films or for pleasure. They come to work. Buyers, sellers, distributors, producers, directors, all sorts of people.” Thierry Frémaux.
Amongst the fun each year at Cannes Film Festival, there is also the serious decision-making aspect. The festival has huge influence on which films make it in front of audiences at all. One of the most important events for many Cannes attendees is the Marché du Film, which is the world’s busiest movie market. Movie distributors who specialise in finding ways to get audiences for foreign, arthouse, and other niche films – known as ‘specialty distributors’ – often make their most important deals of the year here. Filmmakers who hope to find funding and distribution for their films spend their days at Cannes networking with financiers, distributors, and publicists from all over the world.
Another long-standing element to the festival is the tradition of booing. It’s part of the landscape at Cannes, and there is little real rhyme or reason as to why it happens. A film that gets booed could be genuinely bad, or it might simply have affected the audience in a strange way. Some films that get booed go on to be highly successful; others never go any further. It is simply an accepted occurrence at Cannes – one that has happened to two of Quentin Tarantino’s films: Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, as well as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
Whether you’ll get wrapped up in the hype of this year’s Cannes Film Festival or prefer to steer clear of the buzz by retreating to the quieter parts of the area, like Antibes and Juan Les Pins, there’s no denying the French Riviera is a special time to be at this time of the year.
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