Cannes considers more options

Organisers seek new formula as parallel sections cancelled

by Richard Mowe

Rolling out the red carpet in Cannes last year but organisers are still seeking a formula for the 2020 edition
Rolling out the red carpet in Cannes last year but organisers are still seeking a formula for the 2020 edition Photo: Richard Mowe
After Monday’s statement by French President Emmanuel Macron which, among other items, broadly continued the Coronavirus lockdown until 11 May and prohibited mass gatherings such as festivals until the middle of July at the earliest, the organisers of this year’s already postponed Cannes Film Festival finally have admitted that the fallback position of an event in late June and early July is no longer on the cards.

A statement from the festival came last night, while this morning it was announced that parallel sections Critics' Week, the Directors' Fortnight and ACID were cancellling their 2020 editions.

In typically cautious fashion, the festival's statement, in slightly halting English, confirmed: “The postponement of the 73rd International Cannes Film Festival, initially considered for the end of June to the beginning of July, is no longer an option. It is clearly difficult to assume that the Festival de Cannes could be held this year in its original form. Nevertheless, since yesterday evening we have started many discussions with professionals, in France and abroad. They agree that the Festival de Cannes, an essential pillar for the film industry, must explore all contingencies allowing to support the year of Cinema by making Cannes 2020 real, in a way or another.

“When the health crisis, whose resolution remains the priority of all, passes we will have to reiterate and prove the importance of cinema and the role that its work, artists, professionals, film theatres and their audiences, play in our lives. This is how the Festival de Cannes, the Marché du Film and the parallel sections (Semaine de la Critique, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, ACID), intend to contribute. We are committed to it and we would like to thank everyone who is by our side, public officials (Cannes' City Hall, Ministry of Culture, the CNC), industry members as well as our partners.

“Each and everyone knows that many uncertainties are still reigning over the international health situation. We hope to be able to communicate promptly regarding the shapes that this Cannes 2020 will take.”

The protracted response from the organisers of the festival’s 73rd edition comes as many in the industry have been urging them to bow to the inevitable and at least to give some clarity of intent. The latest formula will create further room for continuing uncertainty. Films such as Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and Pixar’s animation Soul, the follow-on Top Gun: Maverick and François Ozon’s Summer of ’85 had seemed set for a Croisette bow. Whether the producers will decide to avoid the festival circuit and get their films directly into cinemas as soon as they reopen remains to be seen.

The next major festival opportunities would be in September when there is a logjam of Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian in quick succession - but all equally shrouded for the moment in question marks.

What will Cannes come up with as a solution? The absolute no-no is a virtual event. Festival director Thierry Frémaux, already has said firmly that turning the festival into an online edition “wouldn’t work”.

Macron in his televised addressed to the nation had made it clear that it would be some time before the country returned to any semblance of normality. "Bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and museums will remain closed at this stage," he said, while underlining that festivals and other events with large crowds will be banned until mid-July.

Despite the strenuous efforts of the Cannes authorities to find a way forward many in the industry around the global are simply working on the assumption that the Festival will be cancelled and they are looking forward instead to 2021.

A virtual version of the Cannes film market, the Marché du Film, will be going ahead with the organisers due to unveil detailed plans on Friday, it was revealed today in the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter. It would start in late June and be based on the Cinando platform, allowing sales and distribution companies to look at financing and putting together new projects ready to roll once quarantines are lifted.

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