Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 3: Bumming in the American Pavilion

by Richard Schwartz

It's been said that the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival is a sort of haven for young, upstart independent filmmakers from the states. The next Jarmusch or Soderbergh or even Spike Lee could be found, the legend goes, with an iced mocha in one hand and a script in the other, ready to pitch a senior producer on helping him finish a project.

With that in mind, this reporter set out for the American Pavilion, so called because, among other things, one could find a recent copy of the L.A. Times and a fresh (read: not instant) cup of cafe american for a change. Indeed, I was able to get the score of the Lakers game as well as a mug of java, not to mention some other goodies that the Pavilion's zillion sponsors were distributing on site. But the one thing noticeably absent from the corporate cocoon that is the American Pavilion was the presence of those young independents I'd heard so much about.

Sure, I could eavesdrop on the conversation of a couple studio publicists brainstorming names for the guest list of an upcoming reception ("What about Dennis Hopper? He could be fun." "Oh, he doesn't get along with [unnamed studio exec]"). Yes, I could run into the likes of Olympic diver Greg Louganis and actor-director Mario Van Peebles -- there's the beginnings of a "Love Boat" cast list if I've ever seen one. And, of course, I could even attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by jury member Mira Sorvino and begin to weep uncontrollably on cue like her father Paul did at the Oscars a few years back.

But I could not find a bona fide, wet-behind-the-ears independent filmmaker in the entire tent fortress. I'm not talking about the Nick Cassavetes, et al, the established independents of Sundances past, most of whom probably aren't truly independents anyway these days because they all have first-look deals with small production companies that happen to comprise the portfolios of mega Hollywood studios. Not those. And not Quentin Tarantino, either, who will likely be stopping by the Pavilion when he lands in town later this week. These types were bountiful, but my "star search" to find that next big thing had stalled amidst the sterile plastic patio furniture of the renowned American Pavilion.

Is it true? Has the American Pavilion really lost its indie "jones?" We'll keep searching.

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