Cannes is a city situated on the French Riviera and is famous for being the playground of the rich and famous. It is replete with luxury hotels, beach resorts, fancy yachts, casinos, and restaurants. It is also a famous site for several conferences.
So, as you can see, Cannes expertly combines business and pleasure. Why not throw in entertainment and glamour for good measure? The red carpet, the spotlight, and the blinding flash camera flashlights lead to the Cannes Film Festival, probably the most famous event in the seaside city.
The Cannes Film Festival (official name: Festival de Cannes) has been held annually since it was established in 1946. It previews new films of every genre from around the world. Today, it is one of the most prestigious film festivals, a glittering rendezvous for those interested in the films and arts or those who just want to stargaze.
The origins of the Cannes Film Festival trace back to 1938 when France’s minister of education, Jean Fay, decided to set up an international film festival. With support from the American and British film industries and personalities, a new film festival would come to fruition.
The creation of the Cannes Film Festival was prompted and driven by the desire to compete with the Venice Film Festival, which was the only film festival at the time. When Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler themselves meddled with the jury’s decision in favor of fascist and Nazi propaganda films, that was the last straw. The French, British, and American jury members walked out from the festival in protest, with no intentions of returning. This incident encouraged the French to host their own film festival.
Cannes was chosen as the location for the new festival due to its scenic beauty and touristic appeal as the French Riviera resort town. The would-be new film festival, named Le Festival International du Film, was scheduled for September 1, 1939. But when Germany invaded Poland on that date, the festival was postponed and stalled for around two weeks. Initially, there were plans to re-schedule the festival if circumstances allowed it. However, the situation only worsened as France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, sparking World War II. The festival was eventually canceled.
After the war, the festival was relaunched on September 20, 1946, as the first-ever Cannes Film Festival. Twenty-one countries participated by presenting their films, most of them featuring war themes.
Since the very beginning, Cannes Film Festival has always been about creativity over competition. In the inaugural 1946 event, eleven films tied for the festival’s first-ever Grand Prix (“grand prize”). In 1955, the Grand Prix was scrapped in favor of the new award, the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”).
Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, Cannes Film Festival was a predominantly European event, at least in terms of the number of films that won the Palm d’Or. In 1959, a business counterpart of the Cannes Film Festival, Marché du Film (“film market”), was established to facilitate transactions among buyers and sellers in the film industry. It is now one of the largest film markets in the world. However, Asian films were also beginning to make their presence felt in Cannes, starting Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Gate of Hell, which became the first Asian film to win the grand prize in 1953. But it would be pretty long before more Asian countries would be able to showcase their films at this prestigious film festival.
In the 1970s, Robert Altman’s black comedy MASH took home the Palme d’Or, signaling New Hollywood’s arrival to the festival and providing a launching pad for careers that would define American filmdom. In 1976, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver initially garnered so much controversy for its violence (and for casting then 12-year-old Jodie Foster as a prostitute), but it took home the main prize.
European and American directors continued to vie for dominance in the 1980s throughout the 1990s.
During the 2000s, the festival turned its focus more on the technological advancements, particularly the digital techniques, that started to permeate in the film world.
Anyhow, Cannes Films Festival has found a way to be both the source of the global headlines and the center of the cultural spirit. Glamor and the media fuss aside, it’s always the films that have always made Cannes Film Festival what it is.