Every year in May, 2 kilometers of red carpet are rolled out for the brightest stars, filmmakers, and producers from around the world. Over 30,000 people visit the French Riviera to be a part of the Cannes Film Festival. The idea for this long-standing tradition spans 70 years, and begin in the late 1930s.
Originally set to start in 1939 in response to biased film festivals held in pre-Nazi Germany, Cannes was to be a collection of the greatest new films and celebration of the industry. The Cannes was the brainchild of French Minister for Education and Fine Arts, Jean Zay, who attended the Venice Film Festival in 1938 and saw that the festival had become a way to push propaganda films. Disgusted that the festival failed to recognize the talents of new and upcoming films, Zay was determined to set up a festival of his own.
Unfortunately, the Cannes Film Festival didn’t officially kick off until WWII ended in 1946, and there was a chance that this now glitzy affair was not going to last long. There were a lot of things going for the festival, and it was encouraged by the French government as a way to bring more tourists to the region.
Early on, the invitation only film festival as more of a way for filmmakers to get together and socialize, and most people that actually showed up would walk away with some kind of award. It wasn’t until around the 1950’s when the festival gained international attention through the media and became a worldwide household name. The likes of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren made Cannes a global name and its prestige grew in the years to follow.
Today, the festival brings celebrities and film professionals to the south of France to view official screenings and premieres, negotiate film deals and discuss the film industry. An average of 200,000 filmmakers, actors, agents, and fans travel to Cannes to be a part of this incredible event, and with all of these film stars, thieves can be a major concern. In 2013, the largest heist in history took place during the Cannes Film Festival when $112 million of jewelry was stolen from the Carlton Hotel.
The Golden Palm
The greatest honor of this festival for any director is to be awarded the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm), a symbol of the film’s vision and impact it makes on audiences. Prior to the creation of this award, the Grand Prix award had been the greatest honor until 1955, when the first Palme d’Or was given.