Venturing into Cannes 2018: New Changes, New Rules, Are We Ready?
by Alex Billington
May 7, 2018
Another year, another Cannes Film Festival. But this year is different. In 2017, Cannes celebrated its 70th anniversary and things went as they usually do. This year, for the 71st Cannes, they're changing things up. In a statement sent to press in the last few weeks, Cannes director Thierry Frémaux explained: "We want to make the most of this new decade to explore, experiment, question our customs and practices." In March, Cannes announced three major changes and new rules for the festival this year: no selfies on the red carpet, no Netflix films (in connection with French distributors upset because of archaic laws about films required to be in cinemas), and no more press screenings before the "public" (they're not really public anyway) world premieres in the evening. With all of these changes, and more, it's going to be a very, very interesting year. I'm sure some press will be pissed, others unfazed, but most of all - no one knows how it's going to play out.
At this point, a day before the fest begins, I'm feeling various emotions: I'm excited, as usual; I'm nervous, as usual; I'm worried about the press screening schedule/changes; I'm very curious to see how everyone will respond; and I'm happy to be here, of course. I really have no idea what's going to happen - this is a brand new year with changes no one saw coming, and no one knows how exactly they'll affect us. From the outside looking in, these changes don't seem that big. But for the press/critics attending, and for the film industry on a whole, these are major. Frémaux has reassured us multiple times that everything will be okay - they're supposedly doing their best and planning to make sure everything goes smooth. Who knows if that will be the case. Last year, with increased security measures, things did not go so smooth - films were often delayed and attendees frustrated (e.g. they would not let us bring in bottles of water or any food, even small snacks).
Whatever happens, there will definitely be a ton of noise about this year's Cannes Film Festival beyond the reviews and red carpet coverage. Most of this only really affects the people actually at the fest, and not the readers/viewers elsewhere, but then again, everyone who cares about the film industry is already aware of the riff-raff these changes have caused. Most notably, Netflix pulled a total of five films from the festival after Cannes wouldn't budge on their rule (about the films being required to show in French cinemas). This really sucks, for press and for everyone, because we all wanted to see these. And while they'll probably show up at other festivals or just on Netflix at some point, this is definitely not the last we'll be hearing about the Netflix vs Cannes vs French distributors battle. Things are only heating up, and even though Netflix won't be at Cannes this year, they're going to continue to comment and it will all continue to evolve from here on out.
This is my 9th year back to the Cannes Film Festival, and I am so happy to be back. After all these years I've certainly become used to the hectic Cannes system and structure, learning how to navigate the crowds and the queues and everything else. So for me this year, it's also a big change, but I'm ready for it. Honestly - I'm just here for the films. And really, I hope I can get into to see them without any problems. As the title of this website clearly indicates, I prefer going to the very first screenings of these films - and that's going to be a bit harder this year since those screenings are now in a smaller venue. But I hope everything works out and I don't have any troubles getting in. The alternative option, as Frémaux has revealed, is another screening at 8:30AM the following morning (which is when the very first press screening used to be). I've always dreaded these 8:30AM screenings, but I've learned that a croissant and coffee makes everything better. So, we'll see.
Well, I've rambled on so much about the internal politics of festival, I've probably bored everyone already. But yes, Cannes really is about the films - and I just hope to see some good ones. I was not very impressed with the official selection this year. I was expecting to see Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria and Claire Denis' High Life, and a few others, but they're not ready yet (or didn't make the cut) and that's okay. I am going in with good spirits and hoping for the best anyway, and I've got my eye on a few so far: I have good feelings about Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War, Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters (watch a trailer), Ramin Bahrani's Fahrenheit 451 (watch a trailer), Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun, and also Wanuri Kahiu's Rafiki. I'm excited for Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, of course. And I'm looking forward to the Japanese animated film Mirai from director Mamoru Hosoda, as well. Beyond those, let's wait and see the reactions.
The other big change for Cannes 2018 is that it starts (and ends) a day earlier. No other festival has made this kind of change, so it's a bit odd. The festival now starts on Tuesday, May 8th (most festivals start on Thursday and go until the next Sunday). And it now ends on Saturday, May 19th (most festivals end on the final Sunday). Cannes claims that this allows them more time during the week for more big premieres leading up to the first weekend, but that seems more for the red carpet and world premieres than anything. It's an unprecedented move for a major festival, and if it works well, we might see other fests follow in suit and shift their dates as well. For those of us on the ground at the festival, seeing films all day and all night, we have to play along. I've never started a festival on a Tuesday before, but I'm ready to go. Let's see what happens this year, and if these "experiments" and changes make things better, or worse. Only time will tell.