Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000

2000 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Cannes 101

by Cari Beauchamp

Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000 is presented by:

Where are the stars? Where are the studio films? These questions are hurled from stateside press as George Clooney walks by, here to promote O Brother Where art Thou from Universal. OK, so it's a Cohn brothers film and Ethan and Joel have been comfortable here since sweeping the awards with their Barton Fink and are more than willing to have their films in competition. Most major studios see no upside in the expense and risk of bringing a film here – expense because it costs a fortune to first class the stars over, put them up at the obligatory Hotel du Cap, and host the party that is expected and risk because if its panned by the press, the world knows immediately. Bad news before opening weekend in America is the worst possible position and that's why they end up sending films like Mission to Mars which has already done all the business it is going to do in the US but has yet to open in Europe. And that brings us to Cannes 101.

While the films in competition (those 23 films this year up for the major awards) are often the focus of American press, it is only the top of the wedding cake as it were. There are three other major "sidebars" or sections of films that are often more intriguing than those in competition. First is the Director's Fortnight, highlighting two dozen films from usually new directors – today's screening was Girl Fight fresh from its success at Sundance. There is the Semaine Critique – films picked by yet another group entirely and yet another 20 films screened under the banner of Certain Regard – so called because they deserve a look. The adventurous and those willing to take a chance are often rewarded with gems that they will never see in America. Today's jewel was Waiting List from Cuba.

And then there is the Marchι – the Market – literally and figuratively the nuts and bolts of Cannes. Hundreds of films screened in the dozen theaters throughout town – occasionally for the press, but most often for the buyers and distributors from all over the world who come here looking for product. "Bolivia has been sold, but Argentina is still available." The country by country selling of independent films is what makes or breaks the filmmakers and the small production companies who come to town to sell their wares. Almost every country has a film industry and for them, Cannes is still the place to show them off. The blinders on some of the American press covering the festival that only allows them to see films from Hollywood is a constant source of bemusement if not insult to the rest of the world.

Cannes has become a year round convention town – The Festival is still the largest, but the town has been redesigned to serve their biggest industry. There are huge convention size rooms set aside for companies selling everything from theater seats to popcorn machines and for cities and countries from throughout the globe promoting their place for location shooting. Another large contingent is made up of programmers from other film festivals throughout the world looking for films to show at their own festival. Each of the groups of people who come here – press, distributors, festival programmers, promoters, producers, publicists, sales people, accountants, etc. etc. seem to live in their own world within this world, going about their business almost oblivious to all the others. The bottom line is there is so much more to Cannes than films from American studios.

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