About This Festival
Filmmakers might start their careers in Hollywood, but the Cannes Film Festival is where they’re made. For nearly two weeks in mid- to late May, the Cote d’Azur becomes a playground for celebrities and the paparazzi who stalk them. One talented filmmaker will walk away with the coveted Palme d’Or prize and, assumedly, the respect of their peers. This ritzy, increasingly competitive festival, where the scene and fashion is perhaps more important than the films, awards and winners, is one of the last of its kind.
Opening Act at the Cannes Film Festival
Considering its current state as a celebration of opulence and fame, it’s surprising that the roots of the Cannes Film Festival are, in fact, political. The first iteration took place quite humbly on September 1, 1939, when Europe was in the grip of fascism and National Socialism as a result of Nazi Germany. The Cannes festival was created to celebrate pure artistic expression in response to Italian leader Benito Mussolini’s propaganda film festival, held concurrently in Venice. The festivities were cut short, however, when Hitler’s German army invaded Poland on that very day. The Cannes Film Festival eventually resurfaced in 1946, long after the Axis was defeated.
In the Spotlight
The entire industry, and frankly the entire world, has its eyes on Cannes during the festival. Thanks to the journalists and photographers camping outside of hotels and theaters, the world gets a play-by-play of the festivities and awards. And as any smart publicist will tell you, who’d want to waste such a good opportunity? From what they wore to what they said (who could forget Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s controversial comment about claiming to sympathize with Hitler), everyone’s vying for their time to shine.
The Cannes International Film Festival might be a ritzy, glamorous affair, filled with fashion, but it’s still a place where you could arrive a nobody and leave a somebody. In 1994, Harvey Weinstein purportedly “stormed” the beaches of Cannes telling anyone who would listen about his brilliant new director, Quentin Tarantino, whose highly entertaining film, Pulp Fiction, would change the way we saw movies. Tarantino was booed when he received the Palme d’Or, but it turns out Weinstein was right.
Unless you’re a high-powered studio mogul, a gorgeous lead actor or an influential journalist, you’ll have to settle for being a fly on the wall at the Cannes Film Festival. If you’re a self-professed people-watcher, this will be Mecca for you. There’s nothing wrong with being a face in the crowd, and the earlier you get to one of the premieres, the better chance you’ll have of staking out a choice spot. Rather than trying to muscle your way into one of the highly touted studio premieres, check out some of the smaller films on the festival itinerary; you might meet the next big thing. Although Cannes is largely a high-roller affair, there are things to do even if you aren’t “in the industry,” like catching a movie under the stars at the Cinéma de la Plage on MacéBeach.