What is Cannes? You’ve heard of it, of course. You’ve seen the artsy white palm leaves that hover around the edges of film names when they are gunning for the Oscars. You’ve inevitably seen the avalanche of news articles on the dresses being flaunted in the French sun every year; the gasps over the sheer fashion on show. But underneath the glamour, what exactly is this surprisingly covert film festival?
At its worst, it’s seen as a pretentious art show, an almost elitist invitation-required festival that only the classiest of the film fraternity are allowed to attend. At its best though, it is the connoisseur’s choice, a film festival that savours the best of world cinema; presenting a line-up that brings together some of the best films from across the globe. The emphasis has always been on trying to culture diversity; indeed, only eight of the twenty two contending films his year for the prestigious Palme D’Or (the highest honour at the Cannes) are in the English language. You’ll recognise Brad Pitt amongst the line-up, but you’re less likely to have heard of Abbas Kiarostami.
The focus is on showing film as an art form. You won’t find The Avengers anywhere, regardless of how many million record breaking dollars it might have pulled in on its first weekend or how badass Tony Stark is. The panel, headed by Nanni Moretti and helped out by judges from a swathe of backgrounds (Ewan Macgregor and Alexander Payne are amongst the panel) try and showcase the smaller names, the ones you won’t have heard of in the clamour of summer blockbusters and Pixar glory.
And indeed, at its heart, that is exactly what Cannes is. It’s about the showcasing of all these non-commercial films. As a director, even if your film hasn’t been shortlisted for the Palm, Cannes still offers a fantastic opportunity to get your work seen. If offers the chance to launch your talent, to display the labour of love that would have otherwise gone unnoticed; it is that glorious chance for the biggest names in film and advertising to really sit up and take notice of the best that cinema has to offer.