What is the Cannes film festival and why does it matter?

For decades, many have tuned in to watch stars walk the red carpet in the French Rivera in May for the biggest film festival. Cannes brings glitzy, glam, networking, and screenings to one place.

But most people, don’t know what Cannes is and why the festival is important.
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How do you pronounce “Cannes”?

Most people make the mistake of pronouncing it as “cahn” or “cahns.”

But it’s more or less like “can.”

With many French words, the trailing s is not pronounced. So, it’s not “cans” or “cahns”. It’s just like a can of beans.

How does the festival work?

A few dozen films are selected to show during the festival. More than often, from prestigious directors whose work has previously played at the Festival.

Twenty films premiere “in competition” to win the top Cannes prize; the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”). This is the highest prize awarded at Cannes and is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry.

Previous winners have included films such as Sex, Lies and Videotape; Pulp Ficition; and Apocalypse Now.

The festivals official programme is divided into several sections:

  • In competition: the twenty films competing for the Palme d’Or. Among this year’s competing films are Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre d’Image.
  • Un Certain Regard – Twenty films selected from cultures near and far, with an “original aim and aesthetic.” It is likely these films have limited theatrical distribution and are seeking international organisation.
  • Out of Competition: films that are not competing for the main prize but re projected in the Théâtre Lumière. The film committee just wants to recognise these films. Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is due to premiere out of competition.
  • Cinéfondation: fifteen short and medium-length films from students currently enrolled in film school.
  • There are Midnight Screening, Special Screenings, Tributes and other events, playing films during the festival.

Why is Cannes so important?
The festival is considered the most prestigious in the world, mainly because of its exclusivity. The festival also has a long history of premiering some of the greatest films of all time and has even launched the careers of many prominent filmmakers.

It has propelled the success of many films during award season and months later; The Artist is just one of many that show that.

Beyond the recognition, Cannes affects which films make it in front of audiences. Some of the most influential people in the film industry attend, from distributors to financiers and publicists. Filmmakers can network with the hope to find funding and distributors for their films.

Who gets to go to Cannes?
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Cannes is an industry-only festival. Credentials are given to directors, producers, actors, publicists, distributors and journalists, who have applied for a badge. Attendees have to flash their badge to get into all screenings and events.

The festival also plays a selection of films for the public on the beach, every night at 9 o’clock.

Cannes has and will retain its position at the top of the festival hierarchy for years to come.

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