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Cannes, Je T’aime: 4 Reasons to Love the Cannes Film Festival

You’ve just got to love the famed French Riviera film festival that celebrates so many film genres from all parts of the world.

The crème de la crème of today’s global film industry are out in high spirits during the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s 71st edition. And as a new decade begins for the festival, the 12-day programme includes 21 films, 14 nationalities, new faces and tributes to some of the great names in cinema.

Cannes is THE film festival of the year, where the emerging, the established and the time-honoured (and even a few punks and zombies in the past) come out to leave an everlasting mark on the world of cinema. So how has Cannes managed to set itself apart from the rest, to have a certain je ne sais quoi that no other film festival has quite managed to attain? Let’s take a look at four reasons why this event has completely reshaped the film industry and is possibly the most famous and loved film festival in the world.

A beautiful view of Cannes

1. It’s historical
The Cannes Film Festival is the brainchild of Jean Zay, the then Minister of Education and Arts. Zay wanted to create something to vie with the Venice Film Festival, and aimed to have the first edition up and running by 1939. However, plans for the gala were put on hold due to the Second World War, and Cannes would see its first film festival opening almost 10 years later, in 1946. Cannes had rather humble beginnings as well, showcasing films from just 16 countries, and having one representative from each country on the jury. It was such an intimate event in those days that most filmmakers left with a prize.

Brigitte Bardot

2. It’s extravagant
No other festival does decadent and over-the-top like Cannes. Every year, the city of Cannes quickly sees its population of around 80,000 swell up to 200,000, and a lot of these visitors have money to spend. Renting a nearby villa complex during the festival period can cost an astounding $120,000 and more. And the extravagance doesn’t stop there. For those who want to indulge in a meal at an average Cannes hotel, they can expect to pay around $45 for just the main course.

Before guests arrive, a team of 250 gardeners plant 20,000 plants all around town, and the event’s permanent staff of 30 increases to 850. During each festival day, the red carpet is reportedly changed three times. However, where there is extravagance in production, there is also abundance in waste; the festival generates a staggering 700 tonnes of it each year.

A Cannes Film Festival poster

Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s Artistic Director and Co-President, redesigned the Palme d’Or award, coveted by every film director on the planet, in 1998. As a testimony to Chopard’s commitment to sustainable luxury, each year the Palme d’Or is meticulously handcrafted, taking over 40 hours of work by about five artisans, with 118 grams of Fairmined-certified ethical 18-carat yellow gold in its Haute Joaillerie ateliers. It rests on a dainty rock crystal cushion shaped like an emerald-cut diamond, making each trophy truly unique, as nature never yields two identical rock crystals. It is presented in a blue Morocco leather case lined with white suede.

The event itself runs on a budget of about $25 million, half of which comes from public funding, and the rest from contributions and the Official Partners. Cannes also has its own dedicated venue, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, first built in 1949, and relocated to a bigger and more glitzy space in December 1982, to accommodate the growing success of the festival.

A luxury hotel on La Croisette

3. It’s iconic
The Cannes Film Festival has become synonymous with all that is artistic, chic and glamorous, and has built its reputation on years of unforgettable firsts. Its red carpet has welcomed a number of iconic figures over the years, each gracing the prestigious event with unique presence and flair. Fabulous personalities that have helped make Cannes the star-studded event it is today include: Pablo Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Paul McCartney, Sean Connery, David Bowie, Princess Diana and Sophia Loren.

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco at their engagement

The festival has set the scene for at least one timeless romance: where actress Grace Kelly met Prince Rainer III of Monaco in 1955, only to get engaged months later and married the following year. It is also the event known for crazy incidents such as in 1954 when actress Simone Silva posed topless, causing commotion amongst photographers, resulting in one breaking his arm and another his leg. In 1985 someone threw a shaving cream cake at film director Jean-Luc Godard before the screening of his film, “Detective”, and the audience showed their disappointment by booing him at the screening.

The Palm D'Or

The world’s glitterati descend every year on this picturesque stretch of sun and sea, decked in haute couture and dripping in jewellery, so it is no wonder Cannes has also produced a selection of fabulous fashion firsts. Some memorable style stars over the years include singer Beyoncé in 2006, dazzling audiences with a halter-neck gown created by her mother, Tina Knowles. There was fierce competition on the style front in 2007, as Angelina Jolie impressed the world in a canary yellow Emanuel Ungaro gown, while Tilda Swinton deviated from tradition, choosing to rock a bronze pantsuit instead. In 2009 Jolie turned heads once more, accompanying Brad Pitt to the premiere of “Inglorious Basterds” in an ultra-sexy, flesh-toned Versace dress.  

Nieves Alvarez at the 'Yomeddine' premiere

Cannes has also produced a long-running series of iconic art. Since its inception, each event has been celebrated and immortalised by a unique official poster. These poster designs are usually inspired by films or created by filmmakers, and are sometimes tributes to icons who have been a major part of the festival.

Catrinel Menghia at the 'Yomeddine' premiere

It’s breath-taking
The film festival in itself is, of course, stunning, but nothing quite takes your breath away than its awe-inspiring location. The city of Cannes is located in the French Riviera (also referred to as Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), and is as historical as it is beautiful, with its first settlement dating back over 2,000 years.

Julianne Moore at the 'Yomeddine' premiere

Today, Cannes is particularly known for its Promenade de la Croisette, a waterfront avenue lined with palm trees. La Croisette is as scenic as it gets, offering guests gorgeous beaches and a fine selection of restaurants, cafés and boutiques. The city is also home to nearly 100 beauty institutes, so beauty is definitely a primary focus.

Irina Shayk at the 'Yomeddine' premiere 

Cannes’s shoreline offers miles of fine sand and blue horizon, its millionaires' coast is forever lined with yachts, boats, catamarans, surfboards and kayaks, and its waters provide a haven for swimmers and water-sport enthusiasts. Some say, however, that the best swimming and snorkelling to be had on the Côte d'Azur is not by this coastline, but in the clear rivers, turquoise pools, natural Jacuzzis and cascading waterfalls in the mountains above. These aquatic playgrounds offer a series of gorges and flowing waters from the Alpes-Maritimes, and beautifully-formed grottoes in white limestone. Some renowned haunts are Clue d'Aiglun, Clue de Pierrefeu and the Riolan.

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