Monday, July 2, 2012 at 9:00AM
Wednesday, May 16th marked the opening of the 65th Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France. Often referred to simply as ‘Cannes,’ the Festival is known worldwide as the place where up-and-coming filmmakers are thrust into the limelight in order to compete against established stars for a number of prestigious awards, such as the Palme d'Or (award for best film) and Grand Prix (award for second choice). Many of the world’s premier directors, actors, and actresses first gained international recognition for their performances in films submitted at the esteemed Festival. Over the course of eleven days, the 22 full-length feature films chosen to take part were screened by the invitation-only audience, and judged by a select eight-member jury of film industry elite.
Yet, despite all the international cinema icons on display and in attendance, Cannes continues to make strides to ensure that young talent is consistently nurtured and assisted. In 1998, the festival added the Prix Un Certain Regard (prize for new outlook) to its awards list as a way of encouraging unique, innovative work by breakthrough filmmakers. The winner each year is awarded a French Government grant to help fund its distribution. In that same year, the Festival introduced a foundation titled La ‘Cinéfondation’ to support future generations of filmmakers through various self-generated programs. Within the Cinéfondation, a selection committee chooses between fifteen and twenty short or medium-length films each year from film schools all over the world, and awards the top three filmmakers prizes at an official ceremony.
Two years later, a new program was added in which pioneering filmmakers are granted residence in the heart of Paris to work on their first or second feature-length project. Over the course of the two four and a half month segments, the directors are offered forums with industry professionals, as well as personalized itineraries to accompany their script writing processes. Many of the filmmakers who have been accepted into this program have gone on to have their films represented in major festivals. In 2005, the Cinéfondation was again tasked with helping to promote and develop future filmmaking talent by organizing another new branch within the foundation called ‘L'Atelier.’ Every year, L'Atelier selects fifteen filmmakers based on the merit of their earlier works, and invites them to Cannes, where they are assisted with the marketing and financing aspects of their film’s production. Upon arrival, the film’s director is put in touch with producers and distributors, and a brochure is developed to market the film to the media and members of the industry. The director is also given full access to the festival, including meetings, screenings, and promotional events.
For someone who studied film in college, it is refreshing to see the world’s most celebrated film festival have such a vested interest in the development of future filmmaking talent. Based on past evidence, one can only assume that Cannes will continue to find ways to expand the Cinéfondation in the years to come. Who knows? Perhaps by the 70th opening of Cannes, the Cinéfondation will be the central focus of the Festival, rather than the glamorous guests who grace the red carpet. We can only hope.
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