Mari Vindis reports on her summer spent at Cannes Film Festival 2018
I’m at the 71st Cannes Film Festival walking along the quay wall at the back of the giant Palais des Festival et des Congres. Yesterday it rained but today it’s hot, crowded and buzzing. Streams of people walk up and down, all wearing a lanyard with a name tag dangling – the precious piece of plastic that will gain you entry to the events and parties that make up the festival networking, social occasions and industry talks and meetings. It’s all about the contacts. The steps leading up the entrance of the Palais are covered with red carpet, as are the walkways rigorously guarded by hundreds of metres of waist high fences and numerous security guards. Directly opposite, dozens of international photographers have brought their own stools, chairs and step-ladders and chained them together, creating a mini theatre of their own. Virtually every man here wears a dinner suit regardless of status – the Festival’s ubiquitous uniform making an ironic classless statement.
Out in the bay a giant cruise ship lurks and I count fourteen superyachts, some of them large enough to have heli-pads, plus a couple of clippers, their sails tightly rigged. A helicopter buzzes back and forth picking up and disgorging the rich and famous to the end of a private promontory. Smaller motor boats run back and forth performing the same task but are just that bit too far away to see who’s on board unless you have binoculars (next time!). Beside me in the quay are rows of super yachts, berthed super close, their gangways guarded by the crew less they get stormed by opportunists or hustlers. I check some of the names of the studios that have rented the yachts for the festival: Pinewood, Cactus Film, e-cinema.com. Large wicker baskets mostly filled with trainers sit quayside by the gangways, which puzzle me until I see people removing their footwear before they go on board. Trainers are de rigeur in the film world, it would appear. I strain to see who it might be sitting there on the aft deck having high-powered meetings, but I see strangers, mainly glued to their mobile screens. Perhaps they are watching the film screenings which start at 8.30am and take place all day into the small hours. Long rows of identical white tents line the promenade between the beach and the road with a cast of international flags depicting the countries participating. Further along from the Palais an “International Village” consisting of dozens of these tents are grouped near to the flea market. Well, they are very posh fleas – many of the stalls sell vintage designer handbags and clothes at eye-brow raising prices.
To attend a screening of one of the many films being premiered at Cannes, you must be “invited”. I saw “invitations” being held up for sale outside the Palais, many of the sellers looking just like your mum. Could be one of the lucky locals who can apply for tickets ahead of time where several hundred are made available especially for them. Well, their town is severely disrupted during the Festival, and who cares if it inundated with Hollywood A-listers, French film moguls and a cast of international producers, directors and actors stretching across the globe from Morocco to India to first timers, Saudi Arabia. Those who are unable to see the Festival screenings can take pot luck at the Plage Mace where classic films are screened plein aire on a giant screen, free of charge. I wandered down to this beach one evening and watched part of Luc Besson’s epic Le Grande Bleu alongside the tourists and locals, with its mix of French (sub-titled) and English dialogue.
Cate Blanchett headed the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, one of only a handful of female judges in its 71 year history. She lead a procession of 82 female actors, producers and directors along the red carpet outside the Palais de Festival on the Cannes waterfront. The number represented the total number of women who had sat on the Cannes jury during its entire history. The figure for men was 1,688. They stood back to back in silent protest at the lack of equality for women in the film industry, particularly with regard to pay. Women in film take a high profile here, not just in terms of pay inequaity but as part of the MeToo campaign. Film is nothing if not political and this was evident by the buzz created by the female Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s film Rafiki about lesbian love. It could premiere at Cannes, but was banned in Kenya, where there is widespread condemnation and discrimination against the LGBT community. Homosexuality is till criminalised in Kenya.
The Palme d’Or was won by the Japanese film Shoplifters, a drama about a poverty stricken family who survive by shoplifting, which has yet to be released in Japan. The only film with British involvement that was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or was the Polish drama Cold War, a love story in the 1950’s set against the background of Europe’s cold war. It was supported by BFI and Film Four and the director Pawel Pawlikowski won best director. It was surprising that UK films were thin on the ground, as the British contingent were certainly out in force. Maybe next year will be hotter in every sense of the word.