A beginner’s guide to the Cannes Film Festival
When and where is this festival?
The 2012 Cannes Film Festival will take place between 16 - 27 May and will, of course, take place on the sunny south coast of France.
Certainly sounds like somewhere movie types would go, but why should we care?
As spring gets into gear everyone knows what the biggest and loudest films of the year will be. Lord knows we’ve covered the likes of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Avengers Assemble’ enough here. Cannes serves as a chance for studios, directors and distributors to showcase the best of their artier, altogether more intelligent cinema. Not that it’s always indie films on show, last year Steven Spielberg premiered ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ at the festival, and Quentin Tarantino is a regular.
Sounds like those films would hog the limelight then.
Not quite. The opening film of the festival typically gets a lot of press as it’s always one of the most attended screenings. This year it’s Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, which stars Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. He’s a big director and he’s got some big names here but the film has the indie sensibilities that are typical of the director and it its practically bursting at the seams with whimsy. It fits with the tone of the festival much like last year’s opener, Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’, which went on to a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars and a win for Allen’s screenplay. A lot more attention is given to the end-of-festival awards however.
If I have to sit through another awards show I swear I’m going to cry.
Don’t worry about it, the awards aren’t the glitz and glamour back-patting of the Oscars or Golden Globes. In fact in some respects they’re held in higher regard than those. It also helps that the winners aren’t typically American, in fact before Terrence Malick won the Palme d’Or last year for his masterpiece ‘The Tree of Life’, you’d have to go back to 2004 for the last American winner, Michael Moore for ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’.
Ooh, I like to see Americans lose out on awards, so how does it work?
There are the usual awards for directing and acting and then the three main prizes awarded to the films and their director. Each prize is chosen by a jury consisting of film-makers and journalists. The third most prestigious prize is the Jury Prize, which was won last year by French film ‘Polisse’. The Grand Prix award is effectively the second place prize, but the nice name removes that stigma of not being the “winner”. Last year it was won by Belgian film ‘Le Gamin au Vélo’, which was recently released in the UK as ‘The Kid with a Bike’, and Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’.
Remind me what the most famous prize is called…
Ah yes, the Palme d’Or. It’s the top prize at the festival and it can take a film unlikely to be that successful and amplify its ambitions. The most famous winners of the prize are Francis Ford Coppola for ‘Apocalypse Now’ in 1979 and Quentin Tarantino for ‘Pulp Fiction’ in 1994. The last British winner of the prize was Ken Loach in 2006 for ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’. It’s possible for there to be two winners of each prize if the jury votes accordingly.
Is that it?
No, there are also prizes for Best First Feature Film (Caméra d’Or), best student films (the Cinéfondation prizes) and the Prix Un Certain Regard, an award given to a particularly innovative or audacious work. This year the jury for the Prix Un Certain Regard is headed by our very own Tim Roth, who starred in the Palm d’Or winning ‘Pulp Fiction’. Other awards are given independently, outside of the festival’s remit. These include prizes voted for purely by critics, the Palm Dog (you can figure that one out yourself) and the Queer Palm for LGBT-related films.