7 Reasons Why You Should Care About the Cannes Film Festival
The 67th Festival de Cannes took place this year from May 14th to the 25th. Maybe you recognize the name of the event from tabloid magazines as one of those times when stars are decked out in designer gowns and tuxes. Or maybe you have engaged in a debate with someone over the correct pronunciation of the French Mediterranean city. Is it Cans, Khan, or Con? Tip: It’s actually pronounced most like Can. For a quick lesson, click here.
Cannes is not just another film festival. It is THE film festival. Every May since 1946, the French town turns into a meeting place of cinema’s key players, the almost-players, the wannabe-players, and journalists. Here’s SEVEN reasons why you should pay attention to what happens at Cannes.
1. It’s the Olympics of the Movies.
Last year, the event was covered by over 4,500 members of the media. Only the Olympics trump this figure.
2. It Rivals the Oscars in Prestige.
There are many awards at Cannes, but the biggest is the Palm d’Or. Somewhat of an equivalent to an Oscar statuette, the award is given to the best feature film and the best short film in competition. When people speak of the award winner, however, they are usually referring to best feature film. This year’s winner is “Winter Sleep” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
The Camera d’Or is awarded by a separate jury to the best first-time film in the entire festival. By Cannes standards, a “first-time film” is at least an hour long and its director has never before made a movie of that length for the cinema or TV. This year the award went to “Party Girl” by Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Claire Burger, and Samuel Theis.
Other awards presented to films in competition include Prix de la Mise en Scen (Best Director) – awarded to Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher” – and Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay) – given to “Leviathan” by Andrei Zvyagintsev. Films that are technically “out of competition” for the aforementioned prizes are still eligible for awards in the Un Certain Regard, Director’s Fortnight, Cinéfondation and International Critics’ Week categories.
Note: The party scene at Cannes also outshines that of the Oscars because the film festival last two weeks where as the Academy Awards has merely one night of after parties.
3. It Launches Careers.
Cannes is the number one international market for first time films. Multi-million dollar deals are signed there every year. The screenings themselves are a major aspect of the festival, a place for new films, new artists and new artistic approaches to be seen by the people who matter in the film world.
For example, twenty years ago, then up-and-coming filmmaker Quentin Tarantino won the Palm d’Or for “Pulp Fiction.” The film and its director were honored this year with a special screening of the film in 35 mm format.
Additionally, Baz Luhrman received a major nod of approval in 1992, when his first film “Strictly Ballroom” premiered at Cannes. He was awarded the Prix De Jeunnese for outstanding work by a young director. Then last year, his adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” opened the 2013 Cannes Festival.
4. It’s Where Bidding Wars Go Down.
The festival’s parallel event, the Marche du Film (Cannes Market), is the biggest international film market, boasting in excess of 10,500 participants and 1,500 screenings. Whether or not a movie wins the Palme d’Or, it still has the chance of attracting the attention of critics and producers who can launch careers in the movie industry. Especially for an indie film, an invitation to Cannes can be a huge boost, and a win usually means serious dollars from producers who want to get in on the next big thing.
This year, already, Paramount won a major deal over Denis Villeneuve’s “Story of Your Life” – a science fiction blowout starring Amy Adams. Distribution rights for the U.S. and Canada cost the Hollywood studio $20 million. Jake Gyllenhaal’s crime drama “Nightcrawler” also sparked a bidding war between The Weinstein Co. and Focus Features. Additionally, The Weinstein Co. won the North American rights to “The Coup” after a bidding battle – starring Pierce Brosnan and Owen Wilson.
5. The Festival Focuses on Erasing International Boundaries – All Are Welcome.
Cannes festival organizers say their goal has long been to showcase global cinema. The mission statement of the festival is “to draw attention to and raise the profile of films with the aim of contributing towards the development of cinema, boosting the film industry worldwide and celebrating cinema at an international level.”
The festival has become an important showcase for European films. Jill Forbes and Sarah Street argue in European Cinema: An Introduction, that Cannes “became…extremely important for critical and commercial interests and for European attempts to sell films on the basis of their artistic quality.” Likewise, the festival places African filmmakers in spotlight as well. Last year, Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche won the Palme d’Or for “Blue Is The Warmest Color.” This year, Mauritanian-born and Mali-raised filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbukto” competed for the Palme d’Or.
Additionally, South Korean crime action film “The Target” got a boost in international recognition after premiering this past weekend at Cannes. South Korea’s period drama “The Pirates” also garnered international attention, and pre-sold to more than 15 distributors. “A Hard Day” is the Seoul production of “Avengers 2”
6. It’s Emotional and Booing is Acceptable…
An audience at Cannes is known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves. If a film is well-received, then people give enthusiastic ovations. If a film is not well liked, however, then booing is completely commonplace. In the past, some of the movies that have been notoriously shut down include Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” Terrence Malick’s and Brad Pitt’s “Tree of Life,” and Ron Howard’s “Da Vinci Code.” But the life history of these three films after Cannes tells us that the audience isn’t always right. Hopefully, the same success follows Ryan Gosling, whose starring vehicle, “Only God Forgives”, was booed at its premier.
7. It’s a Meter for a Film’s Future Success
Contrary to the preceding paragraph, often times, the reception at Cannes can be an honest indicator of whether a film will be a hit. For example, Harvey Weinstein has already decided to market “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” as an Oscar contender due to the overwhelming positive response at Cannes. The film itself and its lead actors, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, are all contending to be Oscar nominees for Best Film, Best Actress and Best Actor. As such, the new strategy for the movie, which received a ten minute standing ovation, will be to release it on September 26, at the beginning of the awards season.
If you’re looking for more films that screened at Cannes, these are the ones to watch out for this year.