Besides the over abundance of screenings and press conferences, it is 12 days of meetings, panels, presentations, conferences, networking, consultations, brainstorming, and educational workshops dedicated to the 7th Art. These programs are enthusiastically attended and voraciously consumed by an entire spectrum of cineastes and cinephiles from around the globe.
France is probably the country most devoted to the nurturing, promotion, and appreciation of cinematic art, and this festival, founded in 1946, spectacularly situated on the shores of French Riviera’s Cote d’Azur is the largest and most prestigious film festival in the world. Each year the Cannes festival plays a role in boosting (film) cultural heritage while generating significant economic growth and jobs in each country’s respective film industry.
The celebration of Cinematography is less pronounced at Cannes and there are no awards recognizing cinematographic excellence. Rather, it is a festival devoted to directors and actors and actresses, < comediens>. When asked why, it is rumoured that Festival Director Thierry Fremaux replied that the original statutes of the festival do not include the category of cinematography and he does not think this could change now.
In the Main Competition, there was
The different strands of the Official Selection are the Main Competition, the Director’s Fortnight, Critic’s Week, A Certain Regard, Camera d’Or, Cannes Classics, Special Screenings out of Competition, Short films from the Cinefoundation Collection, Cinema on the Beach, and Midnight Screenings. Added to that are the Market screenings, so dozens of films are being projected simultaneously inside and out of the Palais every day from early morning to the wee hours of the following morning.
Every year, the AFC, (French Society of Cinematographers) finds it’s home within the CST’s (Commission Superieure Technique de L’Image et du Son) pavilion at the Village International Pantiero where they hold their lunchtime receptions and where fastidious, hard working Jean-Noel Ferragut writes late into the night to produce the AFC’s excellent daily newsletter. Many AFC members photographed films in the festival and some of the best were: Guilllaume Deffontaines- “Slack Bay”, Natasha Braier-“The Neon Demon”, Andre Turpin- “Its Only the End of the World”, Clare Mathon- “Staying Verticle”, Christoph Beaucarne – “From the Land of the Moon”, Stephane Fontaine-“Elle”, Yorick Lesaux-“Personal Shopper”, Jean Claude Larrieu- “Julieta”, Phillipe Rousselot-“The Nice Guys” not all AFC members
International DPs included Vittorio Storaro- “Café Society”, Janusz Kaminski –“BFG”, Matthew Libatique-“Money Monster”, Robbie Ryan- “American Honey” and “I,Daniel Blake” Barry Ackroyd-“The Last Face”, Alain Marcoen-“The Unknown Girl”, Hossein Jafarian- “The Salesman”, Chris Doyle-“Poetry without End”, Fred Elmes-“ Paterson” and Tudor Vladimir Panduru- “Graduation”.
Everyone was so excited about the opening film at (Cinema de la Plage) Cinema on the Beach- the evening screenings where you sit in deckchairs on the sand almost until midnight watching a classic film projected on a screen planted out in the bay….We waited for “Purple Rain” but it was cancelled as it was too windy and the forecast was for …..heavy rain.
For 25 years, the CST, an association of film, audiovisual and multimedia professionals and artistic technicians, has been responsible for the technical direction of all screenings at the Cannes Festival. CST president, the renowned cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn, AFC, is in charge of a team that ensures the smooth running of all technical operations of the 35 mm and digital projection systems for the various sectors of the festival inside the Palais and in movie theatres around town. Glenn is also responsible for the coordination of all the projectionists and with late night rehearsals and preparation, it is a job that keeps him busy from 8 a.m. until about 4 a.m. the next morning. In spite of that, you can always find him at noon holding down the fort at the CST pavilion coordinating the day’s activities.
|The most important event celebrating cinematography was sponsored by Angenieux.|
In 2013, Angenieux became an official partner of the Cannes Film Festival and created the Pierre Angenieux ExcelLens in Cinematography award which this year was presented to Peter Suschitzsky, ASC. Previous recipients have been Philippe Rousselot (AFC, ASC) in 2013, Vilmos Zsigmond (HSC, ASC) in 2014 and Roger A. Deakins (BSC, ASC) in 2015. Over a fifty year period, Peter Suschitzsky has photographed more than 40 films including the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) . For over 25 years he has been working with David Cronenberg and has photographed “Naked Lunch” (1992), “Crash” (1996), “eXistenZ” (1999), “Spider” (2001), “A History of Violence” (2005), “Eastern Promises” (2007), “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “Cosmopolis” (2012), and ”Map to the Stars” (2014). He worked with John Boorman on “Leo The Last”(1970) and “Where the Heart Is” (1990), with Ken Russell on “Lisztomania”(1975) and “Valentino” (1977), and with Irvin Kershner on the second installment of Star Wars, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Peter Suschitzsky won a best cinematography award for “Where the Heart Is” in 1991 from the National Society of Film Critics and four Canadian Genie Awards for “Dead Ringers”, “Naked Lunch”, “Crash”, and “Eastern Promises”. The International Cinematographers Film Festival Manaki Brothers (Macedonia) honored him in 2009 with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, he received the David di Donatello award for Best Cinematography on Matteo Garone’s “ Tale of Tales”. During the festival, Peter Suschitzky conducted a master class sponsored by Thales Angénieux, moderated by Benjamin B. and said, “ I became fascinated by the image when I was very young. I like to feel free when I start a movie. I want to be able to react freely to what I see on the day and not be encumbered by too many preconceived ideas. I’ve found that I’ve done my best work on the most challenging films, films which have been most stimulating to work on. Whatever the technology and its advances, the fundamental thing in filmmaking remains the idea and the script.”
France’s Panavision Alga, had a strong presence at Cannes; Panavision cameras were used on 20 feature films screened in the various sections at this year’s festival and the company partnered with the Directors Fortnight strand. Since last year the company has been reorganized into 3 diversified areas: feature film, commercials, and fiction films for television. At the lunchtime reception at the CST pavilion, Panavision hosted a presentation of their cameras and lenses.
Team members from Arri hosted two busy receptions: one in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America, L’Association des Producteurs de Cinema, and Film France, and the other, the popular Sunday afternoon ‘Cocktails with Arri ‘ where they presented the Alexa 65 and the Alexa SXT with the Anamorphic ultra wide Zoom, and an Alexa Mini in 4:3 mode with Master Anamorphic lenses. The venue at the Plage des Quinzaines was packed with enthusiastic camerapeople, filmmakers, directors, producers, cinephiles, and Arri fans.
Steven Overman, President of the Film Division at Eastman Kodak, emphatically declared at the CST stand that film negative is alive and well. “We have started to manufacture film stock again and because of such increasing demand, we have no intention of stopping. We would not have been able to continue this if it were not for the tremendous support of so many talented filmmakers who chose to work with film purely as a creative choice”. This summer there are more than 10 feature productions that will shoot in 35mm film in France.
And of course there was MEDIA at Cannes celebrating its 25th anniversary.
In 1991 MEDIA was set up by the European Union to promote the European cinematographic and audiovisual sector and to encourage cultural diversity. Since its inception, MEDIA has invested more than 2.4 billion euros in the development and distribution of European and international films. In the last 25 years, 40 films supported by MEDIA received the festival’s Palme d’or (Grand Prize). This year, 10 of the 21 films in competition were financed by MEDIA, including that of Ken Loach, (whose “I,Daniel Blake” just won the Palme d’Or) Pedro Almodovar, Cristian Mungui, Maren Ade, Nicole Garcia, and the Dardenne brothers. Three quarters of the films selected for Cannes are supported by MEDIA, either featured in the Main competition or the sidebars such as Critics Week, or Directors Fortnight and often are co-productions involving producers from 15 different countries. Since its inception, MEDIA has invested in over 2,000 European films, television series and other projects distributed in digital. It has helped train more than 20,000 producers, directors and screenwriters. Everyday throughout the festival, Creative Europe MEDIA showcased projects at its stand, hosted debates, and held workshops on Financing and Distributing European works in the Digital Age, Stimulating Investment, and Fostering Online Distribution.
Upstairs in the Marche, at the greatly enlarged Doc Corner, you could bring your project, script, or idea and schedule a private discussion with development experts , producers, and consultants who work with the mainstream television channels. Heads of programming or production at the EDN- European Documentary Network or IDFA-International Documentary Film Academy were available for meetings and their consultants were there to offer advice and suggestions. At the Doc Corner, Justfilms, and the Ford Foundation presented a panel called “Global Awareness for Social Justice” with filmmakers Gianfranco Rosi and Cara Mertes, previously at Sundance Institute, now at the Ford Foundation. Gabo Arora and Askold Kurov presented excerpts from their latest films. Featured speaker Laura Poitras was still in N.Y. doing last minute finishing touches on her documentary “RISK” that was premiering in Director’s Fortnight in 2 days time. A day long conference sponsored by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency called <Refugee Voices in Film> explored the ways that broadcasters, humanitarian agencies, and filmmakers-some of them refugees themselves, engage and portray refugees and their plight.
There were only 3 female directors in this year’s 21 Competition film lineup, and in the Official Selection line-up, it was 7 out of 56. Maren Ade is the first German director in competition at Cannes for nearly a decade, Her film “Toni Erdman” which has now won the prestigious Fispresci Critics Prize, was the critic’s choice for a top award. Britain’s Andrea Arnold who has won Jury Prizes for ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Red Road’, now won the Jury Prize for “American Honey”. Nicole Garcia’s (“Mal de Pierres”) or “From the Land of the Moon” was a very accomplished film that should have been rewarded.
For the second time at Cannes “Women in Motion” held a panel to address the need for greater diversity and greater representation of women in the film industry. Producers, agency executives, Sundance representatives and celebrities such as Jodie Foster, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Juliette Binoche, and Jessica Chastain discussed the poor statistics of women in directing positions and the embarrassingly small percentage of female leading roles in movies- especially for older women. 83% of feature films made in the US have leading male characters, and roles for women are usually restricted to that of mother, girl friend or victim.
Another panel called “Women Do it Together” announced the creation of a production company that is dedicated to financing and producing female driven films, documentaries, and TV. At the press conference, Robin Wright, Catherine Hardwicke, Freida Pinto and Juliette Binoche introduced the initiative for a new omnibus film, “Together Now“, that will be produced by the nonprofit production company We Do It Together. The company’s first feature will be comprised of seven short films that will pair a woman director with a prominent actress.
“The goal is to take immediate steps to generate fresh new content that is both insightful and entertaining in order to tell our own stories in our own ways. If we dream it together, we do it together” says Chiara Tilesi, one of the 3 producers of WDIT production company.
The Women in Film Technology panel hosted by HP explored how advocacy, action, creative collaboration, technology, and persistence will help women move forward to achieve their goals and realize their documentary and independent dramatic film projects.
Cannes is also a place to find the latest, highly accomplished, stimulating, documentaries, and the classics. This year there were 9 documentaries about cinema or the history of cinema. Chosen by a jury of cinema critics, considered to be one of the world’s greatest documentarians, 84 year old legend Fred Wiseman was awarded the Prix Cinema de France Culture for his extensive body of outstanding work. His latest film “Jackson Heights” was screened, as was his 1970 landmark film “Hospital”. There was an homage to the great Raymond Depardon and his restored version of ‘Faits divers’ (1983) was screened to a packed audience. Nick Broomfield, who is almost a celebrity, is known for his provocative socio-political documentaries was honored at the Filmmaker’s Dinner held at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc by entrepreneur and producer Charles Finch surrounded by celebrities such as George Miller and Mick Jagger.
In the year that we lost three of our greatest cinematographers of all time, Haskell Wexler, ASC, Dougie Slocombe,BSC, and Vilmos Zsigmond,ASC,HSC it was with great sadness and mixed emotions that I watched “ Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond“ by Pierre Filmon. Filmon is a filmmaker and projectionist at the Le Grand Action Cinema in Paris, who met Vilmos during a retrospective of his work in 2014. Exploring the trajectory of this extraordinary innovative cinematographer from his youth and escape from Hungary to the U.S., his career in Hollywood, and his later life in Big Sur, it is a fascinating and touching portrait of this great artist we all loved and who changed the look of films and how they were photographed. This doc. could be longer as there is so much to learn about this exceptional man and his celluloid masterpieces, but Filmon is careful not to overlap what has already been covered in James Chressanthis’ 2008 documentary “No Subtitles Necessary: Lazlo and Vilmos”.
After winning an Oscar for her portrayal of Edward Snowden exposing NSA spying activities in “Citizen Four”, Laura Poitras turns her attention back to “RISK”, a film she started in 2011 about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who is living in captivity since 2012 in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Compelling viewing but possibly too short to to discover the complexity of this unique but quirky individual. A very lively Q&A followed the film.
Playing in Cannes Classics, the wonderful three hour plus “A Journey Through French Cinema“ by writer- director Bertrand Tavernier focuses on the lesser known names in French film history while also covering its icons. Hundreds of film clips take us back in time, and with political and historical insights and personal anecdotes to introduce us to some of France’s greatest cinematic legends. A love letter to cinema, Tavernier says ”I would like this film to be an act of gratitude to all the filmmakers, writers, actors, and musicians that have appeared I my life”.
“Peshmerga” by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy is a close up look at the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, (some attended the Palais screening). Filming these kinds of war situations in a way that has rarely been seen before, and watching the men and women who do the fighting and dying is unusual and Levy, once again, delivers a powerful, sincere portrait of war and suffering the world does not want to see.
A bit of comic relief comes from “Bright Lights”: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds which is a highly entertaining, funny, weird, and affectionate look at the mother-daughter relationship that takes place in a world somewhere out there.
“Exile” by Rithy Panh, who comes regularly to Cannes, recounts the director’s childhood against the backdrop of the atrocities committed by the Khymer Rouge.
The documentaries at Cannes put us back in the real world and help balance the scales between the commercialized fiction of the Main Competition and the sidebars. Overall, 2016 was a strong year with an excellent crop of films.
The critics were lukewarm and underwhelmed and several films were even booed at the early morning press screenings. Many said the awards were given to the wrong films, but Cannes is unpredictable and you can never second guess the whims of the Jury and its President, this year being Australian Director, George Miller of “Mad Max” fame.
Best to ignore the awards, focus on the journey, and treasure the experience of being there...
And yes, for 12 days it was the most wonderful festival (in the world)
List of 2016 Cannes Film Festival winners:
Palme d'Or: Ken Loach, "I, Daniel Blake"
Grand Prix: Xavier Dolan, "It's Only The End of the World"
Jury Prize: Andrea Arnold, "American Honey"
Best Actress: Jaclyn Jose, "Ma Rosa"
Best Actor: Shahab Hosseini, "The Salesman"
Best Director: Olivier Assayas, "Personal Shopper" & Cristian Mungiu, "Graduation"
Best Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, "The Salesman"
Camera d'Or: "Divines," Houda Benyamina