Socialites and movie critics alike are making their annual pilgrimages once again to France, for the 70th Cannes Film Festival that starts today and runs through Sunday the 28th. In the film festival genre of events — among productions like the Tribeca Film Festival that just ended two weeks ago, the Venice Film Festival that takes place in autumn, the Toronto Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, and actually dozens of others from cities around the world — the Cannes Film Festival is by far the most influential and prestigious.
A film festival is a type of event that in its essence, serves to be an exhibition for moviemaking. Exhibitions across different industries sometimes take on different formats based on the products of that industry. Just as fashion weeks are usually citywide events that last many days due to the need for runway shows, a film festival similarly is usually produced as a multi-day, multi-venue event due to the very nature of movies as a product.
The participation, engagement, activities, and programs for each film festival is different. The Tribeca Festival for example, you just buy a pass on Eventbrite and go to the screenings. The Cannes Festival on the other hand, is an invitation only event. What makes a film festival different from regular movie releases (which as we perhaps are all aware, happen every single Friday of the year anyway), are usually three main things:
1) The films themselves are usually from local filmmakers (to whereever the film festival takes place), and by extension usually means that they are mostly indie films.
2) The filmmakers themselves are usually involved at the screenings, for typically a public interview / Q&A session with the audience at the end of the films.
3) The festival producers, as part of the expectations of this genre of event, usually conjure up some sort of awards system within the festival. In the example of Cannes, the Palme d’Or award is their version of a Best Picture Academy Award, along with other usual awards for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and so forth.
Exhibitions are in my mind, the hallmark of when a type of business has become an industry. When the people who engage in similar business can come together, create a platform to showcase their work in the context of the rest of society, that platform can become an instrumental medium through which the world comes to understand that business. What has made the Cannes Film Festival so special in the world was the fact that it launched its first production in 1946. By using movies as the perspective and bringing together moviemakers from countries all over Europe, the Cannes Film Festival became an incredibly resonant platform for promoting the peace that Europe so needed after WWII. As Kevin Spacey once said, “sometimes there are things that can be accomplished through culture and art, that can’t necessarily be accomplished through politics”, and that’s certainly been true of the Cannes Film Festival.
See you at the next exploration!