The Reported and Unreported of Cannes Film Festival

Delving into an overview of Cannes Film Festival 2017, we explore not just its glamorous aspect, but also the conceptual and economic influence it has had on the global film industry, and shed some insight on how the Festival transmogrified from an anecdote to a legend.

An event that has the highest number of media attendees after the Olympics, Cannes Film Festival is said to be one of the most glamorous festivities in the global cinema fraternity.The invitation-only, star-studded Cannes Film Festival 2017 commenced at Palais des Festivals et des Congres, Cannes, France, on May 17and concluded on May 28. Founded in 1946, the festival celebrated its 70th anniversary this year under the presidency of Spanish moviemaker and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar, with a total of 19 feature films competing for the Palme d’Or, the most supreme award at the festival since 1955.

The event commenced on a poignant note, by observing a minute of silence in remembrance of the blast victims of Manchester Arena, England, where 23 people were killed during an Ariana Grande concert. The event was marked by the opening film Ismael’s Ghost by French Director Arnaud Desplechin. Actress Monica Bellucci hosted the entire festival and the poster for this year portrays a frolicking pose of Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, which also struck controversy as the Pink Panther star’s photograph was airbrushed to make her thinner.

What is it that a layman should look forward to within this grand extravaganza, besides the opportunity to eye the summer collection of screen idols – those long gowns with their lustrous fabric lingering on the two-kilometre-long stretch of the red carpet (which is painstakingly changed three times a day)? Here is a virtual look at what transpired at the South of France, with observations on the happenings and not-so-happenings of the festival.

The Legend of Cannes Film Festival: Knowing Its History and the Politics Behind It

In 1939, French diplomat and historian Philippe Erianger was devastated when a jury member tampered with the final results of the Mostraalias Sao Paulo International Film Festival in favour of a Nazi Propaganda documentary, under pressure from Hitler and Mussolini. He decided to build the Cannes Film Festival. This idea soon failed under the threats of WWII, with Germany’s attack on Poland triggering the decision to cancel it. The festival resumed towards the end of the World War, in 1946, as a cinematographic festival with the approval of the National Education and Fine Arts Minister of France, Jean Zay, and with the assistance of the British and the Americans. The venue was later shifted to Palais des Festivals after the unfinished roof of Festival du film de Cannes blew off in a storm in 1949.

During those post-war years, western celebrities were keen on exploring the majestic beaches of Cannes. On the first edition of the festival, the Italian Neorealism concept was introduced – a filmmaking art that used non-professional actors and actual location, rather than prepared sets, and largely depicted the post-war issues of a layman facing injustice, poverty, oppression and desperation. The genre was highly appreciated by young filmmakers and boosted their morale towards producing experimental motion pictures.

During the 70s, when the authorities declared a parallel section called ‘Director’s Fortnight’, which appreciated indie cinema and started including studies and documentaries, the idolisation of the Festival increased, and the number of film viewers proliferated from 4000 to 72,000 people in 1990, including the competing and non-competing screenings.The early 21st century marked the dawn of multiculturalism and discovery at Cannes, as two Palmes d’Or were awarded to women moviemakers, with multiple awards also being delegated to Asian, African, Latin American and Eastern European creations at the same time. As time went by, the festival evolved as a united global entity, and in 2017, on its 70th anniversary, the festival proved its penchant for experimentation by involving two television series, Twin Peaks and Top of the Lake: China Girl, and also two Netflix originals Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, as part of its official screenings.

The War of the Big Three

As per the Film Festival Survey, there are currently more than 3000 film festivals running across the globe and, although the Toronto Film Festival is considered to be the most influential fall film festival, the most prestigious ones– which are also titled collectively as the ‘Big Three’ – are held at Cannes, Venice and Berlin. There is even a trilogy concept of three colours, according to Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski, where Red is for Cannes, Blue is for Venice and White is for Berlin. Venice Film Festival of Italy is considered the oldest film festival in the world, founded way back in 1932, and it influenced the formation of Cannes Film Festival as the French movie industry wanted to conduct a parallel competitive trend, while including other European countries. It was later decided that the dates of the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals should be changed to avoid further clashes.

Today, these three festivals are exchanging artistic value, with a great number of cinema connoisseurs flocking to both these events. Butin the book European Cinema: An Introduction, Jill Forbes – a French professor at University of London – and Sarah Street – a respected authority in British Cinema – argue that, as compared to other festivals such as Venice Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, “Cannes offers an opportunity to determine a particular country’s image of its cinema and foster the notion that European cinema is “art” cinema.” Although Berlin is said to be the largest publicly attended film festival, based on actual attendance rates, Cannes provides a variant in exposure as it is a non-public celebration attended by numerous celebrities, that serves as a platform for producers to release their new movies and reach out to maximum distributors who are mobilised from across the globe in search of good creations.

India at Cannes


We have all been receiving updates on how fashionably Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor and Mallika Sherawat are setting the stage on fire with their dazzling attires, but we can’t disregard the fact that a country like India, which houses the world’s largest movie production industry, has still not been able to contribute a single nomination for Palme d’Or. Although the highest grossing movie of India – Baahubali: The Conclusion – had a special screening at the festival, it is Venika Mitra, a Mumbai-based filmmaker, who has sustained the aesthetic value of Indian cinema by winning in the Short Film Showcase category at ‘Beyond Borders: Diversity in Cannes’ for All I Want. In total, 231 movies competed for this title, with only 6 being selected for public screening. Mitra’s innocent movie, which depicts a boy’s love for mangoes, won the title. Here is a list of Indian movies that have been featured and honoured at the Cannes Film Festival so far:

  • Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar won the Grand Prix in 1946
  • Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin won the Prix International in 1954
  • Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali won the Palme d’Or in 1956
  • Filmmaker Mrinal Sen became a part of the International Jury, and his film Kharii won the Special Jury Prize in 1983
  • Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay won the Audience Award and Camera d’Or in 1988, and she also became a jury member for the same category in 2001
  • Manish Jha’s A Very Very Silent Film won the Jury Prize in the Best Short Film Category in 2002
  • Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award in 2013
  • NeerajGhaywan’s Masaan won the Un Certain Regard in 2015

Who Stood to Gain at the 70th Cannes?

On the 70th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival, just like on any other year, the jury line-up for Palme d’Or comprised high-profile celebrities and notable filmmakers. This year, the festival already raked up discussion when the audience booed at the screen while a projection glitch occurred during Netflix’s screening of Okja. But experts preferred to stick to discussions on traditional topics, like Palme d’Or predictions. Out of all the nominations, the movie that took the trophy – a work of beauty made of18-carat pure gold placed atop a glittery crystal – was Ruben Ostlund’sThe Square, a Swedish satirical drama depicting a light-hearted story about an art curator and an art installation, and the great amount of chaos concerning freedom of speech that revolves around them.The Square was competing with strong contenders like Frenchman Robin Campillo’s AIDS drama 120 Beats Per Minute, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian Drama Loveless that won the Jury Award,and Greek director Yorgos Lantimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer starring Nicole Kidman, which shared the award for the Best Screenplay at Cannes this year with Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. The empty handed return of Netflix showed the Jury’s agitation over online movie streaming, which is tactically murdering the charm of the big screen.


Besides the widely anticipated innings of the Palme d’Or, several goliath deals are also struck every year between production houses and producers. With more buyers and less titles, the prices soared high, but this didn’t hamper the buying. Films that proved lucky this year were Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless and Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, which were bought by Sony Pictures Classics; and Francois Ozon’s L’Amant Double, whose North American releasing rights were purchased by Cohen Media Group.

The Glossy Glamour at Cannes

Perhaps people here don’t believe in the quote, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’, since everything that the guests at Cannes wear is, in some way or the other, shimmering forth their sophistication, fashion sense and wealth. The history of glamour at Cannes goes far back to the days of its inception. In the early days, when the European and American film industries were dominant at Cannes, renowned actresses like Elizabeth Taylor, Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly were known to be torchbearers in inventing the alluring Cannes charm. The media played a significant role in covering this beauty showcase after the authorities declared that the best three photographs would be provided with a special mention on the official website of Cannes, with an additional prize for the photographer’s contribution.

Apparels are upgraded now and, following the wave of multiculturalism, each year the innovation and creativity on display is enhancing, with actresses Julianne Moore, Winnie Harlow, Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning being amongst the finest dressed women this year. How reflective they are of the changing world order, is a debate by itself. The most controversial dress flaunted this year was Israeli Minister Miri Regev’s designer dress that portrayed the skyline of Jerusalem. The city is marred with conflict, and the minister notified that the dress is a symbol of Jerusalem’s 50 years of liberation and reunification celebrated through art and fashion.

With business deals helping the film industry and the show growing grander each year in terms of its budget and guests, more and more movies today are dynamic and concerned with issues that were once considered taboo, with input by laymen also increasing through short films and documentary sections. But what further uniqueness is in store for global cinema in terms of technological upgrade and plot narration –especially in mainstream films – is still a subject of curiosity.


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