Traveling to the Cannes Film Festival: Far Away, But Worth It
by Alex Billington
May 12, 2010
As I write this, I'm currently sitting on a train riding through the French countryside on my way down from Paris to Cannes. It's the last leg of my multiple day journey to the Cannes Film Festival. A bit earlier, an interesting thought crossed my mind. Almost all of the premium film festivals that I attend on a yearly basis - Sundance, Telluride, Cannes - are all in remote locations. What I mean is that you can't actual fly directly into any of these cities, you must fly into a neighboring city and travel in by car, train, or bus. Of course, not all of the major festivals are like this (e.g. Toronto, Venice, Berlin) but to me it seems like the idea of hosting a festival in a remote town means a bit more than just finding a beautiful location (though that counts, too).
These three fests, Sundance, Telluride, Cannes, all take place in small, charming, and typically quiet towns, and I think that's what makes them all so special. Maybe it has to do with the idea of getting away from Hollywood and the hustle-bustle of major metropolitan areas for a few weeks and relaxing by the snow, mountains, or ocean (respectively), and discovering/enjoying great films. I'm sure there's actually a real reason for these different locations being chosen and it may come from the early history of these premium fests, but I'm still mesmerized by the distances I must travel to get to the place where I will watch films in theaters that are really not too different than the other thousands of movie theaters I've been to in my life.
I'm not really sure what to make of this thought yet, as it's just something that's been on my mind as I make this journey to Cannes, but it's going to stick with me this year as I judge whether this journey was worth it (I'm only joking, I love being at these festivals no matter what). But in the end, I will leave Cannes and look back at the films that played this year and my experience and compare it with all my other festival experiences. My true love is Sundance (I think it's the snow and cold, as I was raised in Colorado), and although I'm now one of those technophiles who must be connected to the world wide web via my iPhone and laptop, I do love venturing out to these towns. Maybe it has something to do with the idea of being in such a different and remote location and still being surrounded by all things cinema (at least for two weeks).
There's also the possibility that it may spawn from the glamorous lifestyles of the rich and famous (actors, executives, producers alike) who love coming to these remote locations as well (for vacation and publicity). Although, ironically (and except for Telluride), the festivals have become a haven for paparazzi, celebrity "whores" (as I like to call them), "starfuckers" (another celebrity monger), and droves of people who just want to gaze at stars and that's it (and I don't mean up in the sky). They don't care about the films and it becomes quite sad to see these beautiful little towns become overrun by people who don't give a crap about the films themselves, but that's a discussion for another day, as I'm just trying to prepare for the exciting and incredible experience that is Cannes, not complain about something that doesn't truly affect me.
If anything, maybe I can inspire a few more cinephiles to take it upon themselves to one day take a journey to one of these premium festivals. Sometimes it's grueling, exhausting, and downright expensive, but it's worth it, there's absolutely no question about that. As I wrote on Twitter on the train ride earlier, there truly is "nothing like traveling all the way across the Atlantic, then [through] the French countryside, to watch great films at a festival." That's the damn truth and it always brings a smile to my face to think about the distance I've traveled to come here simply to be immersed in a world that I truly do love. Now let's kick off the 63rd Cannes Film Festival and get on to seeing some films, because that's what I'm truly here for, right?