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Cannes Film Festival (French: le Festival international du film de Cannes or simply le Festival de Cannes) is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, held for the first time from September 20 to October 5 in 1946, in the resort city of Cannes, in southern France. Since then, the festival has been held every year in May with some exceptions.
Attracting a large number of media coverage, the festival is not open to the public, has the presence of many movie stars and is a favorite meeting place for film producers to release. the latest movies and try to sell their productions to distributors from around the world.
Gender parity still a long way off
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When it comes to female representation at the festival, not much has changed since last year’s highly publicised protest, headed by Cate Blanchett and Agnes Varda.
Out of the 21 films in this year’s competition, only four were directed by women.
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That said, in addition to Mati Diop becoming the first black woman in competition, the model and actress Leyna Bloom became the first trans woman to walk the festival’s red carpet, as one of the stars of Port Authority, the debut feature from American filmmaker Danielle Lessowitz, which screened in Un Certain Regard.
And yet, the festival’s decision to award Alain Delon the Honorary Palme d’Or was not a popular one amongst many women’s rights advocates, in part due to the French actor’s recently admitting to having slapped women.
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Before the ceremony, actress Sand Van Roy (who accused director Luc Besson of raping her last year) pointedly walked the red carpet in a dress that exposed a large temporary tattoo on her back reading “Stop Violence Against Women”.
Violence against women featured on-screen too, notably in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. Asked about it at the press conference for the film, Tarantino declined to discuss it, saying to do so would be a spoiler.
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Genre films on the rise
The festivities in the French Riviera kicked off with The Dead Don’t Die, a characteristically playful and low-key zombie film from Jim Jarmusch, assisted here by a number of his old pals — Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Iggy Pop, and Tilda Swinton amongst them.
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The opening night film received a decidedly lukewarm reaction — but it proved thematically prescient, with zombies of various kinds cropping up throughout the festival: supernatural figures from Islamic folklore appear in Diop’s Atlantics, while Jessica Hausner’s austere, stylised sci-fi Little Joe centres on a genetically modified plant that subtly colonises the brains of those who tend to it.
Meanwhile, Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama) took on Haitian voodoo in Zombi Child, a compelling mash-up of historical horror and teen movie, which screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight.
The buzziest film in the Directors' Fortnight program also dabbled in horror: The Lighthouse pits stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson against the elements in remote 1890s New England.
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One of the best-reviewed films at Cannes (and winner of the FIPRESCI prize), it’s the second feature from Robert Eggers, who made a name for himself with his spooky supernatural period piece The Witch.
Overall, there was a surprising number of genre films across the festival’s multiple programming streams (even if the kind of European arthouse drama more traditionally associated with Cannes was still dominant).
Perhaps this is an indication of a new, livelier direction for the festival.
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