by Katie McDaniel
2018 Cannes Film Festival: What to Know
We’re currently in the middle of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, which commenced on Tuesday, May 8 and will run through Saturday, May 19, and this year has already seen some changes and controversies, such as the schedule shuffle by Festival Director Thierry Frémaux, and the last-minute Netflix pull-out. If you’re looking for good news, this year’s Cannes has also brought unusual attention to some talented, lesser-known directors. It is the 71st Festival de Cannes and the first in which definitive rules about original content from movie-streaming services will apply (see #8 for more on this). The Festival opened with the Spanish-language title Everybody Knows, from Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi, and will close with A Man Who Killed Don Quixote from American-born British screenwriter Terry Gilliam. The official Cannes website can give you lots of relevant information, and if you’re curious about Cannes 2018 fashion — who’s wearing what on the red carpet and beyond — check out this Vogue article, full of fabulous photos. But If you want to understand what’s happening at Cannes, here are ten things you need to know — about the festival in general as well as what’s new in 2018.
1. Iran and U.S. Fall-Out Coincides with the Premiere of Iranian film Everybody Knows
Ironically, the same day that acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s film Everybody Knows opened the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the internationally-endorsed Iran nuclear deal, as reported here by The New York Times. In 2017, Farhadi had boycotted the Oscars in response to the President’s travel ban, but he still went on to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his highly-acclaimed movie The Salesman. which btw had its premiere at Cannes 2016.
2. Which Countries Are Represented at the 2018 Festival?
While this prestigious film-industry festival is French born and bred, the films featured in the 2018 Cannes Festival come from all over the world, including countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, North and South America, as well as some featured shorts from Oceania.
3. How is it Organized — What’s What?
Only a few dozen films are selected to show during the Festival, often from renowned directors whose work has played in previous years. Cannes is widely considered the most prestigious film festival in the world, mainly because of its exclusivity and long history of premiering some of the greatest films of all time. Only twenty films premiere “In Competition,” which means they’re competing for the top Cannes prize, the Palme d’Or. The Festival contains several other categories of “official selection” films, which are shown at the actual event itself, and “parallel sections” which run alongside the festival. The official selection has eight categories:
- In Competition — films that are competing for the grand “Palm d’Or” (Golden Palm) prize
- Un Certain Regard — films with an “original aim and aesthetic” looking for recognition
- Out of Competition — featured films that don’t fit the criteria for prizes
- Special Screenings — films shown in an environment suited to their subject matter
- Cinéfondation — shorter films produced by current film school students
- Short Films — films with a length of no longer than 15 minutes
- Cannes Classics — a celebration of heritage films
- Cinéma de la Plage — films shown on the beach for the masses during the event
Parallel sections include:
- International Critics’ Week
- Directors’ Fortnight
- Tous les Cinémas du Monde
- Caméra d’Or
- ACID (Association for Independent Cinema and its Distribution)
Some films in each section are also eligible for the Queer Palm and/or Caméra d’Or prizes.
4. Who Is on the Jury?
There are four juries in the Festival itself and two independent juries. The jury for the 2018 Main Competition includes famous directors, actors, and one singer-songwriter. This year, Cate Blanchett has the honor of serving as Jury President, and she didn’t let her prestigious position go to waste. Blanchett delivered an impassioned speech on the steps of the Palais on Saturday, calling for gender equality, as Variety reports here. The Cannes jury president was joined by 81 other women in the movie industry, including fellow jurors Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart, and Léa Seydoux, as well as Patty Jenkins, Salma Hayek, and Marion Cotillard. Here is the list of jurors:
- Cate Blanchett (Australian actress, Jury President)
- Chang Chen (Taiwanese actor)
- Kristen Stewart (American actress)
- Léa Seydoux (French actress)
- Andrey Zvyagintsev (Russian director)
- Ava DuVernay (American director)
- Denis Villeneuve (Canadian director)
- Robert Guédiguian (French director)
- Khadja Nin (Burundian singer-songwriter)
5. This Year, there are Lesser-known Directors Coming to the Fore
In contrast to previous years, this year’s Festival features fewer big names in cinema, creating room for up-and-coming and lesser-known directors to have their turn in the spotlight. (Read about this new generation of Cannes auteurs here, reported by the Independent.) Names to watch out for include:
- Wanuri Kahiu’s film Rafiki (Kenya)
- David Robert Mitchell’s film Under the Silver Lake (United States)
- Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (United States)
- Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War (Poland)
- Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Asako I & II (Japan)
- A.B. Shawky’s Yomeddine (Egypt)
6. Last-Minute Schedule Shuffling
In previous years, the press was given special screenings of the films before they were shown to filmmakers, stars, and audiences. This year, Festival head Thierry Frémaux announced that the press would see 7pm showings at the same time as everybody else, and on the morning following 10pm screenings, as Awards Watch explains here. The sudden change created lots of upset, but the aim of this change was to avoid stars walking down the red carpet with the shadow of media commentaries hanging over their heads.
7. Selfies Banned
Another change for this year’s festival is that selfies will be banned on the red carpet — both for fans and stars. This will prevent “traffic jams,” improve flow, and bring back the more serious tone fitting the occasion.
8. Netflix vs. Cannes
With their move into original content, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have been disrupting the traditional festival system for the past few years, and not just at Cannes; all the major festivals have seen a massive influx of buying from streaming services lately. But Cannes is French, and they hold on tight to their tradition. Thus, despite Netflix being set to show a number of original titles at Cannes this year, the fact that these titles were to be for streaming only was an unresolvable problem for the Festival board of direction, because there is a law in France, called “the French cultural exception,” that dictates that movies that open in France must show in theaters for 36 months before they can be made available for streaming. This law helps to protect revenue for filmmakers and cinemas and support the European film industry in particular, but in this case, it came into conflict with the on-demand viewing nature of the Netflix company. Arguing down to the last moment but unable to resolve this conflict, Netflix decided to pull its entire slate of films from the Festival the day before the film lineup was announced.
What does this mean for the average movie-buff? New, original films out on Netflix will miss out on the awards, recognition, and fame that they might otherwise achieve, meaning that you might not hear about some of the new releases that you would have loved. The Cannes Film Festival will also miss out on the talents of Alfonso Cuarón and Paul Greengrass, as well as the long-awaited film The Other Side of the Wind from Orson Welles. Click here to read how The Guardian details the squabble-turned-war between Netflix and Cannes.
9. Who gets to go to Cannes?
Unlike many other important film festivals (such as Sundance or the New York Film Festival), Cannes is an industry-only festival. That means screening tickets aren’t sold to the general public. The festival grants credentials to directors, producers, actors, publicists, distributors, and journalists, who have to apply for a badge and be accepted. Attendees must have their badges scanned in order to get into any screenings or events. Outside the official festival itself, wealthy investors and producers — who attend the fest celebrating their premieres or looking for films to fund — host parties, rent posh hotel suites and cabanas, and dock-and-stock their yachts for parties, contributing to Cannes’ famous nightlife.
10. Follow the Festival on Social Media
To follow the day-by-day updates on the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, you can go to the official media portals on YouTube and Daily Motion, or watch special guest interviews and film-focused features on French TV. You can also check out the festival’s Media Library, which includes photos from past festivals as well as current pics.