Complete Guide to The Cannes Film Festival
Every May for 12 days, the city of Cannes transforms from a quiet seaside resort into the densest gathering of film industry activity on the planet. Over 200,000 people from filmmakers, film fans, studio executives, to star-gazers go down on the Croisette to take part in the Cannes Film Festival.
The Cannes Film Festival for this year, 2020, is set to take place May 12 to 23. The Festival will deviate from the traditional Wednesday opening for many years, making the opening on Tuesday evening for the third time.
This 73rd edition of Festivals de Cannes will have the director and activist Spike Lee as the jury president.
If you want all the up-to-date shareable info about the Cannes Film festival at your fingertips, there’s an app for that – and it’s free! Keep the app on your phone or tablet even once you get home to check out the ‘best of’ bits post-festival.
History of the Cannes Film Festival
Up until the creation of the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice film festival was the biggest movie event in Europe. However, during the 1938 festival, intimidation from Hitler and Mussolini led judges to vote in favor of the Nazi Propaganda documentary that was admitted and shown.
This led French director Philippe Erlanger to petition to create a free film festival, devoid of political pressure. After a number of setbacks and aborted initiatives, the Cannes Film Festival celebrated its first launch in September 1946.
Due to its international success, it actually led to Cannes becoming the major tourist destination it is today.
Logistics: Your stay in cannes
Lights, camera, action! If you and your friends are heading to the Cannes Film Festival, you’re in for one of the most star-studded events on the European cultural calendar. While you could just show up, frock up, and hope for the best (but we wouldn’t recommend that!), a few simple tips will help you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Choose Your Base
As with any high-profile event, you should definitely book early. While renting an apartment or villa is more economical and flexible than a hotel for a group, be aware that in the central district, close to the Palais des Festivals and Promenade de la Croisette, many owners will only rent their property for the entire duration of the festival.
The city is divided into the inner ring and outside the ring. Further away from the centre, in the outlying suburbs like Le Cannet, Juan-les-Pins and La Bocca, you’re more likely to find apartments that can be booked on a nightly basis.
If you’ve left it too late and aren’t able to secure accommodation in Cannes, staying in Nice is the next best thing. It’s about 45 minutes away by road and there are local shuttle buses every 30 minutes during festival time. Check out our Cannes transportation guide.
While there are plenty of taxis, they’re hard to catch (although many hotels have preferential call-outs) and are very expensive – although split between a group it can be reasonable. If you’re planning on catching a taxi to any event, make sure you book ahead. Or, better yet, if you can afford it, hire a driver for your entire stay.
During festival time there are frequent buses around and beyond the city ring, but they can get very full so if you’re heading to a specific event, plan ahead.
If you’re staying in the inner ring, the longest it will take to walk to Les Palais and La Croisette is about 25 minutes, and much less if you’re lucky – but the crowds might slow things down a bit.
Shuttle buses run about every 30 minutes and cost €1.50. The journey from suburban areas takes about 15-20 minutes. Peak time is around 7pm. An average taxi fare for the same distance can cost you up to €30.
See a Movie
Cannes is officially an industry event, so – unless you’ve received an invitation in the mail (and if you don’t have a name like Tarantino or Clooney it’s probably not coming) – for the hot-ticket screenings at the Palais you’ll have to settle for the smaller venues or open-air screenings at the Cinéma de la Plage.
The TV Festival de Cannes (shown throughout the Palais complex and in most hotels) runs 24 hours a day throughout the festival, broadcasting highlights in French and English.
Free Seats for Screenings
While it’s not easy, you can sometimes pick up FREE leftover seats for screenings of festival films at these venues, courtesy of Cannes Cinephiles:
- Cannes Cinema booth (in the Pantiero zone)
- Raimu Cinema, Ranguin
- Licorne Cinema, La Boca
- Studio 13 Cinema, MJC Picaud
Cannes in a Van
For something a little different you should also keep your eyes peeled for the British ‘Cannes in a Van’, which screens trailers and short films from their van parked along the promenade.
Watch films on the beach
The Cinéma de la Plage holds public screenings of Out of Competition and Cannes Classic films under the stars on a giant screen on Macé beach every evening. Tickets are available at the Cannes Tourist Office on the day (no bookings), or just show up early with your chairs, blankets, and bubbles and hope for the best!
We all know the Cannes Film Festival isn’t really about the films, it’s about the celebrities! If you fancy rubbing shoulders with the glitterati, or at least watching them rub shoulders with each other, for a glimpse of off-duty A-listers you can lurk casually around these well-known celebrity haunts:
- Le Baoli: a very accessible beachfront bar and restaurant packed with celebrities.
- Hotel du Cap Eden Roc: Di Caprio’s (and others’!) home-from-home in Cannes.
- Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez: favored by the likes of Bruce Willis and Julianne Moore.
- La Palme d’Or: a very swanky two-Michelin starred restaurant and the place to see and be seen.
- Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic: just steps away from the Palais, which is obviously important to past guests like Robert Di Niro.
- Cannes Movie Star Lounge in the Intercontinental Carlton: your chances of getting in here will be helped if you make friends with someone in the media!
- Tetou: a famous seafood restaurant up the coast (just don’t show up on the bus whatever you do!), popular with celebs like the Jolie-Pitts and Robert Pattinson.
The Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet
The red carpet at screening events at the Palais des Festivals is the place to spot celebrities in their natural habitat. Dress up in your best Hollywood-ready glad rags and join the circus of media and spectators lining the red carpet as the celebs strut their stuff.
The red carpet is the undying symbol of the Festival. It is for the most part what gets the attention of the media. Both the world’s renowned film artists and budding talents can experience equal welcome as they participate in the event. The red carpet also symbolizes the nor the artists deserve for their creativity. After all, the Festival’s fame depends on them.
One hotel always guaranteed to be hosting Hollywood royalty during the Cannes Film Festival is the chic and glamorous Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. From Marlene Dietrich to Madonna and Angelina Jolie – who take a yacht from Cannes to the hotel and like to stay in the villas for €10,000 per night – this hotel has been desired by the stars since it first opened its doors.
A peek at the hotel’s guestbook reveals that some of the most famous and celebrated stars have sipped on the hotel’s emblematic cocktail Le Bellini (fresh peaches and champagne) and dined al fresco in the paradise that is the Eden-Roc restaurant, which overlooks the Lérins Islands.
The Festival Highlight: Official Selection
The main part of the Cannes Film Festival is the Official Selection that focuses on the diversity of cinematic arts. It includes the “In Competition” where participating films come for the prestigious Palme d’Or, the highest prize of the Festival. Also comes the “Un Certain Regard” on which works with distinct originality and with strong aesthetic and global impact receive the honor. There are other segments of the selection that maintain balance and diversity when it comes to the appreciation of the worldwide cinema. Other parts are:
- Out of Competition: where films do not compete for Palme d’Or.
- Special Screenings: where the films are matched to their particular identity.
- Cinefondation: features films submitted by film schools.
- Short Films: 10 short films aiming for the Short Film Palme d’Or.
- Cannes Classics: celebrated the film industry heritage.
- Cinema de Plage: nightly public screenings of Out of Competition and Cannes Classic films with the venue in Macé beach.
Other Sections of the Cannes Film Festival
- International Critics Week: focuses on discovering new talents around the globe.
- Tous les Cinénas du Monde: showcases the diversity of cinema across the world, where one country will present featured works including short films in celebration of the unique culture and indentity.
- Marché du Film: the world’s largest film market.
- Tributes: honoring internationally renowned artists with Festival Trophee and a screening of their known work.
- Exhibitions: highlighting the event by a cinematographic theme illustrating the event’s program.
- Masterclasses: by A-list filmmakers, Director’s Fortnight, ACID (Association for Independent Cinema and its Distribution), and Producers Network for an opportunity to create international co-productions.