For diehard moviegoers, the Cannes Film Festival is above all a test of endurance, where you have to know how to sit – and often doze – in front of three, four, or even five films a day (and sometimes write about them). It’s also a frantic race between screenings and successive security checks, where you have to present your badge, health pass and bags for meticulous searches. All before moving on to the metal detectors.
This year, the deluge of films is such that the critics will gladly get drunk to border on the overdose, their eyes bloodshot, so much they will have fixed the big screen. After the Covid-19 crisis last year, the organizers made sure that the 11 days of this cinema high mass were enough to recharge the batteries in the event of a new wave. No less than 24 films are offered in the official selection and more than five times as many in the many competitions and parallel screenings – no doubt to compensate for the absence of parties.
The abundance of movies can give rise to outlandish situations – like starting at 8 a.m. on a Monday with the spellbinding ‘Babi Yar. Context ‘by Sergei Loznitsa, dedicated to one of the greatest massacres of the Holocaust, and to end the day on a lounge chair for the screening of’ Fast & Furious 9 ‘at the Cannes Beach Cinema.
Between the two, two of the most anticipated films of this edition will have given, Monday July 12, a big boost to the race for the Palme d’Or. Russian iconoclast Kirill Serebrennikov previewed his ‘Petrov’s Fever,’ a surreal, nocturnal journey through a post-Soviet cityscape, although authorities in Moscow have once again prevented him from physically traveling to Cannes. Wes Anderson, meanwhile, presented his long-awaited ‘French Dispatch’, a true ode to the print media, with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Timothée Chalamet, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe and just about every other actor that l ‘one expects to see in a film by Wes Anderson.
With her parade of stars, ‘The French Dispatch’ marked one of the highlights of the passage on the red carpet, delighting photographers, although the French Léa Seydoux, proclaimed ‘queen’ of Cannes this year with a total of four films presented, could not show up after testing positive for Covid-19.
A special selection ‘for the climate’
New this year, on Monday evening, Cannes unveiled two of the films presented in its famous ephemeral selection called ‘Cinema for the climate’, a sign of the efforts made to place the climate emergency at the heart of concerns. Among them, ‘Invisible Demons’ the shocking documentary by Rahul Jain, a terrifying portrait of fine particle pollution which suffocates New Delhi, the director’s hometown. Speaking to France 24 ahead of the film’s premiere, Rahul Jain said it was time for major film festivals to address these issues head-on. ‘I am very happy that this is finally happening. Everyone, anyone in a position of power and any cultural promoter should take this into account. ‘
Other films selected in this special category include ‘I Am So Sorry’, by Chinese director Zhao Liang, on the dangers of nuclear energy, and ‘Above Water’, by French actress Aïssa Maïga, which deals with impact of global warming in Niger. ‘The cinema has an impact on our imagination, on our social ties and even sometimes on politics’, confided the director of Senegalese origin to France 24 a few days earlier. ‘Climate change, I think it’s an amazing way to connect with the public on a global scale. It is also an incredible way to give a voice to the voiceless. ‘
A greener red carpet
Along with the new program, the organizers of Cannes announced an environmental action plan aimed at reducing waste and reducing the festival’s carbon footprint. All without putting a damper on the celebrations. In other words, a balancing act.
Cannes knows that its glamor is just as important as its films. It relies heavily on stars flown in from all over the world and on festivities that tend to generate mountains of waste.
A few years ago, a viral video posted by a local diver showed the seabed polluted by the detritus of festival-goers, just a few hundred meters from Cannes beaches. As one journalist noted after close inspection, this waste included press kits for the festival’s opening film in 2014, ‘Grace of Monaco’.
Cream of the film festivals, forced to keep its rank, Cannes is a symbol of gold and glitter. Also the most flashy of festivals has long been an ecological danger. It has also fallen behind other gatherings, such as the Berlinale, which recently adopted red carpets made from recycled fishing nets.
To redeem itself, Cannes has therefore halved the area of its famous red carpet and had it made this year from recycled materials rather than the usual PVC. It has also banned plastic bottles, deployed a fleet of electric cars and introduced a contribution of 20 euros for each participant to offset their carbon footprint.
Young environmental activists in the spotlight
Similar measures should be taken by the entire film industry, asked French writer and filmmaker Flore Vasseur at a press conference at the Palais des Festivals on Sunday, in front of documentary filmmakers and environmental activists gathered for the opportunity. ‘This industry does not have an extraordinary track record on the issue,’ she said. ‘We are all in the learning phase, we are all looking for solutions’.
Produced by Marion Cotillard, Flore Vasseur’s documentary ‘Bigger than Us’ follows a teenage activist, Indonesian Melati Wijsen, on a world tour to meet other young people leading the fight for climate and social justice. Flore Vasseur says that on this occasion, the young activists met pressured her team to take measures such as removing plastic from the set.
Speaking to France 24 last week , Melati Wijsen had urged young people in all countries to ‘not underestimate’ their ability to mobilize and bring about meaningful change. ‘If you want to start taking action, do some research: find out what is local around you, what is happening, what is not happening, and seek to understand where you can play a strong role,’ he said. she declared. ‘Remember we are all in the same boat, and (…) together we can create change.’
Teen activists are also in the spotlight in Cyril Dion’s ‘Animal’, which features 18-year-old Briton Bella Lack alongside animal welfare pioneer Jane Goodall. ‘People think that all young people are terrified and motivated by fear (…). In fact, I was motivated by hope and imagination, ‘said Bella Lack at the press conference for the film on Sunday. ‘This is what the film industry and Cannes can act on – as a vehicle to catalyze the imagination of adults.’