Cannes Film Festival 2021: The Rebirth of an Industry

The 2021 Cannes Film Festival is off to the races, and this year it’s better than ever. Some things are

Cannes Film Festival 2021

The 2021 Cannes Film Festival is off to the races, and this year it’s better than ever. Some things are different; COVID precautions are still in place, and people are mindful of the way the world has changed over the last year. But many things remain the same. The dedication to art, the appreciation for skill and talent and creativity; these things are intrinsically part of Cannes. CELEB is taking a look at what to expect from the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, and how the film industry’s rebirth may be taking place this week in France. 

Cannes Film Festival 2021

Cannes Film Festival 2021

With a year at home to think and create and fine-tune, the 2021 lineup is something special. Creators have had 14 additional months to polish their pieces, and now that the festival has returned they’re ready for the international showdown. 

2021 is also the year of woman directors; the lineup includes a record number. 24 films headline the 2021 lineup, including:

  • Oliver Stone’s “JFK: Through the Looking Glass”
  • Ildiko Enyedi’s “The Story of My Wife,” stars Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel
  • Leox Carax’s highly-anticipated “Annette”
  • Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero”
  • Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta”
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul “Memoria”
  • Julia Ducournau “Titane”
  • plus more.

With so many competition titles, this year’s festival has a fervent, frenetic atmosphere; people are excited to be back at the festival, and the industry is excited to be on the go again. 

The COVID Effect 

Cannes is the first full-sized film festival since the start of the coronavirus, and some are nervous that it’s occurring in the midst of a resurgence of the virus. Organizers of the festival are being careful though; infections in the Cannes area have been slightly lower than the national per capita average, and masks are required. Beyond that, festival goers are required to test every 48 hours. However, there’s no required distancing and critics warn that introducing foreigners to a region with good numbers could offset the balance.

Thierry Frémaux, artist director of the festival, had thoughts on the festival’s risks. ABC shares, “‘We always said last year that if the festival was canceled, it was because the situation was more serious than the existence of a film festival also the biggest festival in the world,’ said Fremaux. ‘And the situation, as you know, was serious. It is not over. The epidemic is not conquered. But this year, we will have to be careful — be reasonable and be very careful.’”

What’s Notable?

Sean Penn Cannes Film Festival 2021

The record-tying number of women directors is notable, for one. This year’s record of 4 ties the 2019 record, proving that they’re breaking into the industry and not going anywhere any time soon. Other notables this year include films by Sean Penn (“Flag Day”) and Wes Anderson (“The French Dispatch”). 

Another notable is the way COVID has changed the buying/selling of films. Usually, it occurs at the festival. The films screen, and agents swoop in to buy. This year, much of the buying and selling went on during pre-screening events leading up to the festival; the festival itself will be more about enjoying the films and networking. 

TheWrap shares per MSN, “‘The English language films playing in the festival are rarely for sale, so during the festival, we used the opportunity to set up new projects, like selling films that were in post off of a promo, or a script that was packaged with key talent that you could find distributors for,’ Endeavor Content’s Deborah McIntosh told TheWrap. ‘I’m sure people will be doing business like this, but there just won’t be as much.’

While the Cannes film market will still be held in person during the festival, the virtual event last month means that many of the starriest films and packages have already pre-sold. IFC snatched up three Cannes competition titles ahead of their premieres: Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Benedetta,’ Jacques Audiard’s ‘Paris, 13th District’ and Mia-Hansen-Love’s English-lange debut ‘Bergman Island.’ The festival’s opening film, ‘Annette,’ starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, will be distributed by Amazon in the United States while UGC is distributing theatrically in France. MGM acquired Sean Penn’s ‘Flag Day’ and Zoe Kravitz’s directorial debut ‘Pussy Island’ last month, while Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ went to Miramax for worldwide rights a week ago.”

The History of Cannes

Cannes Film Festival

With the fabric of the festival looking different this year, it’s interesting to take a look back at the remarkable 73 years of Cannes that led to this year. Cannes was created as a creative answer to the Venice Film Festival, which first debuted in 1932. Over the next 6 years, Venice would slowly become a vehicle for Nazi and fascist propaganda, and the film industry wanted to reclaim their creativity, so Cannes was imagined. The very first Cannes festival had been planned for 1939, but it was not to be. In June of ’39’, Cannes was announced to run from September 1st through 20th later that year; but on September 1st, Adolf Hitler Invaded Poland. The French government announced a plan to mobilize and the festival was – forgive the pun – canned. 

After the war, the French government wanted to revisit the idea of Cannes in order to lure tourists back to their sandy shores, and in 1946 Cannes came back from the ashes. Economic strife in the festival’s early years made it a touch-and-go annual event, but it slowly began picking up steam in the late ’50’s. 

By 2019, over 170 countries were represented at the festival. Until 2003, it was known as the International Film Festival, and the name has always been apt. Created as an answer to propaganda and hate, Cannes has always been a beacon of creativity and forward-thinking.

Now that the festival has returned, you would never know what happened along those sleepy French shores last year. You would never know that the Cannes’ home base, Palais de Festivals, was lined with hospital beds and later became a vaccinodrome as a volley in the war against COVID. As the first full-sized film festival to occur since 2020’s shutdowns, Cannes is once again a glimpse of a better tomorrow. Once again, the French city is the cradle of hope and rebirth. This year, it’s in the wake of a different kind of war; but the promise for tomorrow remains the same.