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My Time In Cannes

Quincy Walters
Quincy Walters at the red carpet premiere of Guillaume Nicloux's "Valley of Love"

Before each feature film at the Cannes Film Festival, an enchanting piece of music from Camille Saint-Saen's Carnival of the Animals, plays. For me, it reinforced the magical nature of attending one of the world's most important film venues. 

I went because I made a short film, entitled HE[A]LIUM​,  for Campus Moviefest, which touts itself as the world's largest student film festival. My short is about a boy who uses balloons to cope with the loss of his grandfather. It alternates between flashbacks--where it's the boy, the balloons and the grandfather--and the present, which shows the boy alone with the balloons. It was dedicated to my papa (my grandfather) who died last year. 


Going to the French Riviera, I didn't know what to expect. But after a few days, I came to the conclusion that it was only a place to go if you had a movie to sell or buy, or if you like parties and are obsessed with the idea of celebrity. By the time I left, however, I came to a different conclusion.

Credit Quincy J. Walters / WUSF News
Premiere party for Disney-Pixar's "Inside Out". I was not invited.

At the festival, I waited on line for what I thought was An-- a tender Japanese film about a young man befriending an outcast woman while making dorayaki. An older lady behind me in line said "This is a good film. You'll love it." A woman standing in front of me was convinced we were on a line to see Woody Allen's Irrational Man

We were all wrong. 

It ended up being a raunchy Serbian film called Panama, which is about two college students who become friends with benefits and the complexities of such a relationship. 

It made me a little uncomfortable. The old lady from line, got up and left (not uncommon at Cannes). But I decided to stay since I waited in line for nearly an hour. 

Long lines are a guarantee at Cannes. People cutting those lines are also common. 

While on line for one film, a man on his phone nonchalantly wedged himself in front of me. I stared at him, passive aggressively conveying my disapproval, but he ignored me. 

Click the link below to listen to the expanded version of this story.

My feelings about the festival change after walking past the red carpet--becoming mystified about the allure of celebrity and cinematic notoriety. There was just something enchanting about being so close to the likes of Eva Longoria,  Vincent Cassal and other people I recognize, but can't name. I--perhaps naively--felt that maybe even a person like me could someday walk the red carpet. 

Credit WUSF News
Me at the red carpet premiere of Guillaume Nicloux's "Valley of Love".

While at Cannes, I met Stewart Alexander and Kerry Skinner--a London-based filmmaking duo who was at the festival to pitch an idea for a feature to potential funders. Their previous feature film was Common People, which is about several people being brought together in a park after a parrot escapes. They saw my short film and sent me an e-mail. 

Dear Quincy, 

It was a great pleasure to meet you. Love your film. It was very touching and poignant, with a sprinkle of joy in the middle and a heartfelt "aw" at the end. 

Papa would be proud. Keep telling stories. 

All the best, 

Stewart and Kerry

Outside of the Palais, where most of the films are screened, a man had a hand-cranked music box. He was one of the many people in tattered clothes, begging for money.  

Credit Quincy J. Walters / WUSF News
Man with a hand-cranked music box.

Only a few steps away, there were people dressed in tuxedos and gowns with signs, begging for tickets to a red carpet premiere.

My favorite film at Cannes was The Lobster, which stars Colin Farrell. It's a deadpan sci-fi comedy thriller that takes place in a dystopian future. Single people have 45 days to find a mate, but if they fail to do so they're turned into an animal of their choice.  Farrell's character runs away into a forest--which is against the rules--and falls in love.

A few days later, I saw John C. Reilly--who co-stars in The Lobster--casually walking down the street. I said "Hi". He nodded his head. I told him that I liked his performance in The Lobster. He gave me a dismissive thumbs up and kept walking. 

When I first arrived in Cannes,  I was a little disappointed. But the movies I saw and the people I encountered changed my initial thoughts. But when I left the festival, it felt inspired to become a better storyteller and in some ways inspired to become a better person. 

Quincy J. Walters is a junior at USF, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. His interest in journalism spurred from the desire to convey compelling narratives. He has written for USF’s student paper, The Oracle and is currently the videographer for Creative Pinellas. If he’s not listening to NPR, he’s probably listening to Randy Newman.
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