This year’s Festival International du Film de Cannes has already provided some major #SlayedIt fodder, and it’s just getting started—but there’s much more to the festival than red-carpet eye candy (even if, let’s be real, that’s our favourite part). Here’s a primer to the most decadent and dramatic film festival in the world.
Cannes is a luxurious city nestled on the French Riviera, ideal for travel by yacht. The festival was founded there in 1946 to rival the Venice Film Festival, and it became so popular and crucial to French culture that the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès (pictured below) was built to host it. La Croisette, a boulevard stretching along the shore, is the main strip, with upscale hotels, bistros and boutiques to cater to discerning tourists (the French don’t do Tim Hortons).
The Hollywood Reporter’s recently published an exposé on the worst-kept secret on the Croisette—super-yacht parties filled with debaucherous billionaires, escorts and egocentric actors, a scene straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street. The festival itself is invite-only (unlike TIFF or Sundance), but plenty of people are able to get past the velvet ropes through their wealth and connections (read: not everyone there is Brangelina level. Some aren’t even Tara Reid level). Inside the theatre, films face famously tough audiences who have booed many a film (including Pulp Fiction, Marie Antoinette, Tree of Life and even our beloved petit ami Ryan Gosling’s Only God Forgives). It’s hard to imagine a TIFF audience doing that.
Cannes is the place prestigious films hope to make their mark on the upcoming awards season: this year there’s a mix of bold high-budget films, like Mad Max: Fury Road, and highbrow award bait like Macbeth (starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard), Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (Joaquin Phoenix/Emma Stone), French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (Benicio del Toro/Josh Brolin/Emily Blunt), Sea of Trees (Matthew McConaughey) and Carol (Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara). It’s never too early to start thinking about your Oscar ballot.
The film festival jury always includes a few boldface names: this year Sienna Miller, Ethan and Joel Cohen, Jake Gyllenhaal and Guillermo del Toro are among the committee awarding the top prizes, including the Palm d’Or, a.k.a. Best Picture. Rounding out the pool: Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan, Saudi filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour, French actress Sabine Azéma and needs-no-introduction Isabella Rossellini. There are different jurors for different categories, including Short Film, the Queer Palm and International Critics’ Week. How is an actor selected to join a Cannes jury? Industry accomplishment and a good showing in a previous year (like Sienna in Foxcatcher) can be enough to secure a spot.
Lupita Nyong’o, Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts, Natalie Portman, Zoë Kravitz, Charlize Theron, Salma Hayek, Sienna Miller and Emma Stone have already taken a turn on the red carpet, with many more anticipated (along with a slew of men, including Michael Fassbender and Joaquin Phoenix). But it’s not all A-list; Cannes attracts mega-rich socialites and low-grade celebs who aren’t tied to any films and don’t get much love in North America anymore—they’re just there for the photo ops (ahem, Paris Hilton) and are often brought as dates (see: Russian billionaires). To cut down on pose-harding, security staff have been known to discreetly coax wannabes off the red carpet, and, as at the Met Gala, le selfie is banned (Salma Hayek has already broken the rule but hey, she’s Salma Hayek).