It’s that magic time of year. No, not spring. Not baseball season. Cannes. It’s Cannes Film Festival time. As the 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival is underway, I can’t help but wish I were at the beautiful beach in France. A year or two ago you wouldn’t have heard those words come out of my mouth. Me, want to go back?! At that time, I was burned by Cannes, and came home disappointed. But as years pass, I realize it wasn’t Cannes' fault. The festival was extravagant, beautiful, and prestigious. The excitement during the week was palpable and the location couldn’t have more stunning. It was my expectations and desire to walk away with some sort of big deal for my film Town Red, which screened at the festival, that caused the problem. Now, as Michael Jefferson, the star of Town Red, visits Cannes and his pictures plaster my Facebook walls, I can’t help but want to be on that red carpet one more time.
I went to the 66th Annual Cannes Film festival. Town Red screened in the short film corner, and I had badge-holder access to enjoy almost all of the festival. This was a great year for the festival in my eyes, because of several reasons. Steven Spielberg was the Cannes Jury President, which as one of my childhood heroes, was a big deal to me. He was bringing along an amazing jury with members including Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, and Christoph Waltz. Amazing directors were screening films like Roman Polanski, the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, and Nicolas Winding Refn. And of course, The Great Gatsby was opening the film festival and I had some crazy notion I could bump into the greatest actor of our time, Leonardo Dicaprio. I actually planned on slipping a USB flash drive of Town Red in his pocket. Yeah. That did not happen.
I was allowed to access the ticketing area and get invitations to the film premieres and major screenings. I walked the red carpet three times. Sadly, the weather did not cooperate the week I was there. It rained a large deal of the festival – many of the locals say the festival is cursed. They say it’s beautiful weather all year in Cannes, and only during the film festival does it usually rain. I took it as a good sign when I arrived, super encouraged and hopeful of a positive outcome. I got to go to the premiere of The Great Gatsby. It was exciting and a memory I’ll never forget. Walking down the red carpet and up the steps of the Palais was electrifying, and the weather was thankfully holding up! To be part of the excitement of the stars arriving and the press taking pictures was a great feeling. I went to a couple more premieres and sat in the rain, soaked by the time I got to walk up the waterlogged steps.
As I follow the stories and news of this year’s Cannes, and read that Gus Van Sant’s Sea Of Trees was the first film (so far) to be booed, I remember when I sat through the terrible Shield of Straw, a Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike. I was shocked nobody booed that film. In fact, it received a huge applause at the end. I wanted to walk out, but stayed in the Grand Auditorium Lumiere just HOPING it would get booed! I wanted to witness an infamous Cannes screening boo fest. I was stunned. The film was overacted, never-ending, and the action was uninspired. It felt like a junk movie you find on racks at the grocery store. I walked back to my hotel confused as to why it would have even been chosen.
But I guess that’s what makes the Cannes Film Festival exciting. It’s seeing the films chosen from directors and countries around the world and wondering what will be a huge hit, and what will be panned. It’s the eagerness of seeing which film wins the prestigious Palm D’Or. It truly is the definition of international. It screens films equally from around the globe, is a melting pot of diverse cultures and filmmaking styles, and brings people from every corner of the earth to the festival. The beach and atmosphere around the event, and the crowds of fans all fighting to catch a glimpse of a star walking down the red carpet creates an indescribable energy. Residents of the city stand outside with signs begging for tickets to movies starring their favorite actor, actress, or favorite director. Like I stated in my NBC interview about the festival, the vitality of the Palais des Festivals and the thousands of people wanteing to be a part of the event makes your heart beat a little bit faster.
Whether I have a film to submit or not, I just might book a ticket to the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for myself and my wife. I want to relive that elation. And I want my wife to share the same excitement. If you love movies as much as I do, you should put Cannes on your bucket list. But plan ahead! Hotels book out quick. Get planning now...
What about you? Do you want to go to Cannes? Ever been? Tell me below!