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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.