The most pressing question in the world of cinema today is whether the Cannes Film Festival will be held at all this year. With the French authorities banning all public gatherings till the middle of July, the Festival's hope of going ahead with a new date at the end of June or the beginning of July has now gone up in smoke.
With the two most important sidebars of the Festival – Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight – calling it quits this year, the Market (Marche du Festival) planning a digital version in June, Cannes is really in deep trouble. An outright cancellation would mean a huge blow to the world cinema; many, many producers, directors and actors look up to Cannes as a great platform to premiere their works.
In spite of all this, there is still a ray of hope, however faint it may seem now. The never-say-die man, Festival Chief Thierry Fremaux, has been contending that even now at this stage he was exploring the possibility of holding the event in some form. But he will not go digital, no way.
Cannes is therefore not throwing in the towel, so to say, and will continue to watch movie submissions till the end of June.
Fremaux told Variety the other day: “Cannes wants to be present in the fall to contribute to the industry and the reopening of theatres There are beautiful films coming to us from the entire world; we must and we want to shine a light on them so that they can reach an audience when the time comes for their releases this fall. The cinema and its industries are threatened. We will have to rebuild, affirm again its importance with energy, unity and solidarity,”
He has always been a great believer in the goodness cinemas, and that streaming platforms can never replace the good old theatre with its magical offerings. The kind of effect a big screen produces can never be replicated on television or a tablet or a phone. “I believe that when life will start again, the theatres, the movies will have key roles to play with the public.
He also revealed that Cannes has been holding discussions with the Venice Film Festival – slated to begin on September 2 – about a collaboration.”
"As every year, I speak a lot to (Venice director) Alberto Barbera, who is himself worried, obviously. Since the beginning of the crisis, we have raised the possibility of doing something together if Cannes was cancelled. We’re continuing to discuss it. Other festivals have invited us: Locarno, San Sebastian, Deauville. These are gestures that touch us a lot. And in Lyon, at the Lumiere Festival (in October), we have planned to host a number of world premieres as part of the programme”.
If a Cannes-Venice collaboration happens, it will be historic. Incidentally, Cannes began in 1946 (Venice had been around since 1932) as a protest against the Fascist regime hijacking Venice with its own propagandist cinema. Over the years, during the time when Hitler and Mussolini ruled, they made sure that Venice was their very own platform. In fact, even the prizes were given away to German and Italian films – keeping some great French cinema out.
A peeved French delegation walked out of one such Venice edition and swore to have their own Festival at Cannes. Though the first edition at the French Riviera was to have begun in 1939, Hitler's invasion of Poland, which marked the start of World War II, saw Cannes being called off after screening just one title, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Cannes eventually began in 1946.
The million-dollar questions this year: Will Cannes be held at all in any form? Will it be held along with Venice? Whatever it be, I would miss Cannes and its lovely beach front, and cannot help a sense of sadness engulfing me.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)
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