The Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Festival, more formally known as the Festival de Cannes, is the largest international movie commemoration of the entertainment industry. Every year, around May, experienced and aspiring filmmakers and celebrities head to the small city of Cannes, France to attend the colorful cinematic festival.

Before 2003, the event was named as International Film Festival. It is an event where movies of all genres are unraveled and screened including various documentaries. The films are then judged and awarded by a jury of selected film professionals.

The Early Days

The Cannes Festival initially began as an idea that was proposed by the historian Philippe Erlanger during 1932. Taking this idea seriously, the French Minister of National Education, Jean Zay, along with the support of the British and Americans, worked towards setting up the festival. The event had an objective to fulfill the desire of the French people to have a movie carnival that could compete with Italy’s Venice Film Festival.

However, this plan was put to a halt. The festival was to be inaugurated in the year 1939 in Cannes, but the financing and arrangements were too sluggish. When World War II started, the idea had to be paused and postponed.

On 20th September 1946, the first Cannes Festival was finally organized. Films from twenty-one countries were showcased at the event held in the former Casino of Cannes. The festival was again held in 1947, however, the event organization went through severe efficiency glitches. In the second Cannes Festival, films from sixteen countries were presented.

Due to budgetary problems, the event could not take place in the years 1948 and 1950. In 1951, the event was moved to take place in spring rather than autumn which was the season for the Venice Film Festival. This move was done to avoid any direct competition with the Italian movie event.

The Later Period

The early 1950s was the period where the Cannes Festival started gaining rapid public attention. It was highlighted in the press due to several showbiz scandals and prominent celebrity loveaffairs. Several new awards were also introduced in the upcoming years in honor of the original and unique contributions to the film industry. The Critics’ Prize was created to recognize innovative and daring films.

During 1954, the Special Jury Prize was presented for the first time. The Palme d’Or was created in 1955 and is considered one of the most prestigious awards of the festival.

In 1959, a unique segment was originated in the Cannes Festival, the Film Market. Officially known as the Marche du Film, the Film Market provided attendees the opportunity to get involved in commercial trade. The segment assisted sellers and buyers to exchange their work. The Film market is now the first universal platform for film business.

In 1962, another program was initiated within the Cannes Festival which was named the International Critics’ Week. It was formed by the French Union of Film Critics. The aim was to screen movies from all over the world that did not give in to profitmaking tendencies.

On the 19th of May 1968, the festival wasbarred. On the 18th of May, filmmaker Louis Malle with a few other film directorsinterfered in the screening of the films in the huge room of the Palais. This was done to show support to the labor and students that were on strike all over France. It was also against the removal of the president of the CinémathèqueFrançaise.

As a result of the stoppage, the president was reinstated. The success of the protest led the directors to form the Film Directors’ Society (SRF).

During 1978, the position of General Delegate was taken over by Gilles Jacob who started the Camera d’Or award. The award was presented to the best film during any of the key events of the festival. During this period the festival was also reduced to only being held for thirteen days. Till 1978, the jury was made up of only Film Academics, however, Jacob started bringing in celebrities and film professionals as a part of the jury.

The Cannes Film Festival is held each year in the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès which is a convention center in the city of Cannes, France. The center opened up in the year 1982. However, during 1983, the building was expanded for a better, more spacious venue to host that year’s event. This renewed building was casually named ‘The Bunker.’

It was in 1987 that the red carpet was first time introduced at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Recent Times

During 1998, Cinéfondation was created by Gilles Jacob. It was a foundation that aimed to motivate and assist a new generation of international filmmakers. In 2000, the finishing touches were given to Cinéfondation with La Residence, where aspiring writers and filmmakers could practice their screenplay writing skills.

In 2005, Cinéfondation came up with L’Atelier which was founded to provide financial aid related to filmmaking to twenty directors each year. The official name Festival de Cannes was given to the event in 2002.

During the 2000s, some major shifts took place in the Cannes Film Festival. The event developed an inclination towards technological advancements taking place in the filming world. The year 2004 witnessed the inauguration of the segment Cannes Classics which showcased restored historical films.


In 2015, the Cannes Festival came under massive criticism for the ‘Heelgate’ controversy which sparked when several female attendees were not allowed to enter a premiere for wearing flat-soled shoes rather than high heels.

The Cannes Festival also had to face controversies related to sexual harassment which led to officials dedicating a telephone hotline for reporting any sexual assault or abuse incidents.

Thierry Fremaux, the then General Delegate, was reported ban taking selfies on the red carpet. The General Delegate is the person responsible for managing the event.

The Cannes Film Festival has evolved over time to become one of the most well-known international movie festivals. Each year, numerous filmmakers and celebrities attend the Festival in search of better connections, opportunities, and resources for their careers in the film industry.