A Week in Cannes Is Worth A Month in the Real World... But More Exhausting
Photo Credit: S & A

A Week in Cannes Is Worth A Month in the Real World... But More Exhausting

View from the press wifi cafe in the Palais des Festival

OK, so it’s been over a week since I got here to the sunny French Riviera and, by now, some of you must think that I’m MIA. I have to say that, as someone who likes nothing better than to get on a plane and go somewhere exciting, I was actually a little daunted by the prospect of Cannes the night before flying here. There’s the press screening schedules that you don’t get until quite late… only to find that they don’t also include the Director’s Fortnight screenings, which means you’re whipping back and forth to see what’s when; then there’s the issue with language, as my French is a little rusty and is more like Franglais.

But the latter isn’t much of a problem as, every time you ask a French person in Cannes if they parlez anglais, their answer is always “a little” before they then go on to conduct a conversation in sometimes halting, sometimes perfect, but almost always understandable English. I need to dig out those linguaphone tapes so that when I reply to parlez vous francais with “un peu” I too can then go on to espouse in weirdly accented but understandable French.

But it’s been an exciting week of ups and down since getting here. The first down (rapidly following the up of it being my first morning in Cannes) was in finding out that there was a bus strike. What would have been a 30 minute bus ride ended up being a one hour walk, albeit mostly along the beach front. I was hoping to make the morning press screening of the opening night film, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. Actually didn’t miss it by much, but then the second downer, and a bit of a shocker, was that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the screening even if I’d been on time.

Why? Well, the curse of the yellow badge. Naively, while trying to work out a schedule before arriving Cannes, I’d made a short-list of films I definitely wanted to see. Most of them came from the official competition schedule. These are the one I’m less likely to get into. It works like this: You get up early, wait up to half an hour for a bus, get to Cannes 30 minutes later, then get in the queue by flashing your press badge and wait… only for those with blue, pink, aquamarine with fluorescent turquoise badges (OK, I made up the latter) casually stroll right by you and into the screening. Apparently, about six holders of yellow press badges made it into that first screening I was late for. I didn’t mind so much as Midnight In Paris wasn’t really all that high on my list and was more for the first Cannes screening experience. On perusing the press screening schedule, however, most of what I wanted to see (the more popular films from the likes of Ramsay, Malick, von Trier, Sorrentino…) all get only one press screening on the morning of the day of the Cannes premiere. There is an overflow screening in the Salle du Soixantieme, but even that isn’t guaranteed, apparently – though I plan to give it a go tomorrow.

Thought I had a good chance of getting into the premiere of Lars Von Trier‘s Melancholia last night, had a fancy frock and heels in my bag, changed in the palais and was relieved that there were only a group of 20 or so waiting before me. The last minute access line quickly swelled in number and, while we at the front had a good view of the celebs arriving (well, in between the legs and bodies of the accredited press photographers on the platform on front of us that runs along the red carpet, not one of us got in. Then again, a fair number of invite holders didn’t get in, either. Being late in Cannes means not getting in. Period. I know from, keenly clutching my invite, being told “non” for the official premiere of Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need To Talk About Kevin, after hot-footing it from The Grand Hotel (not, unfortunately where I’m staying) to the Palais des Festival – and I can run in heels! Ho hum.

If you’re lucky, you can blag your way into a market screening (most of the diaspora films are in the market/marche, though press don’t have any priority here as screenings are generally for buyers) and, as long as you tun up on time, you can stroll into Director’s Fortnight films. By now, however, my customary “can’t be bothered” attitude has taken hold. It’s Cannes! What’s the point in stressing out? And anyway, on the last day of the festival they screen all the films in competition again, so I’m sure I’ll get to sleep through a few minutes of a few of the films on my shortlist. Um… no, not because I think they’ll bore me stupid, but because a perpetual state of tiredness seems to pervade the atmosphere here. It’s as if it’s all so exciting, and you’re always running from one place to the next, finding out about talks, presentations, screenings, parties… that you never quite get enough sleep. I’ve met quite a few people who have confessed that they end up missing snatches of about 10 minutes at a time of various films during involuntarily long “blinks.” Hey, you’ve been running around like a blue-arsed fly and suddenly you’re in a relatively comfy chair, in the dark…

But there’s a lot that makes my Cannes trip more than worth while. But for technical difficulties, by now I would have posted an exclusive interview (S&A in association with Diverse World), with none other than Euzhan Palcy, director of Sugar Cane Alley and A Dry White Season (which starred Marlon Brando). So look out for that in the days to come! Another was descending the stairs into the South African party on Saturday (I think, the days tend to run into each other) only to walk straight into Djimon Honsou… Hollywood’s resident African looks waaaay fine in a tux! Of course, being the too cool for school princess that I am, I totally forgot to get a photo with him, even though I did stop for a very brief chin-wag. He’s quite the gentleman.

Also had dinner with the IndieWire big boss and other Indiewire blog. We’re such a cool crew and it felt nice being the the newbie to the group, even though I was battling to stop myself from falling asleep in my fish soup (again, nothing to do with the company, who were more than an exciting bunch of people to hang out with). They seem really happy to have S&A in their stable of with-it blog; Tambay is the dude, and I was happy to represent, though I wasn’t my usually effervescent self (just as well, perhaps – need to set a good first impression).

And I also got to be a member of a symposium panel entitled Beyond Borders: Diversity in Cannes presented by Yolonda Brinkley of YRB International Exposure organised by. It was her second event at Cannes and I sat on the panel with film directors Alrick Brown (Kinyarwanda), Leila Djansi (Sinking Sands), Djo Munga (Viva Riva) and Rebecca Tickell (The Big Fix, an out of competition official selection documentary about the Gulf oil spill, and likely to be the documentary everyone talks about this year). The room was packed to capacity and the panel discussion seems to have gone down a treat – at least I get that impression from the number of people who’ve since come up to me and said hi and thanks.

Can’t say when, exactly, but look out for interviews with Euzhan Palcy (who has a retrospective season going on at MOMA New York right now), Terrell Suggs (linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens who also happens to be an exec film producer), Leila Djansi, Rob Ford (founder of the Creative Minds in Cannes program)… and more.

Most surreal Cannes moment? Watching Ruben Ostlund’s Play, in Danish (I think) with French subtitles (see my comment about my grasp on french above – my grasp on Norwegian/Swedish is non-existent). I actually did get the gist of the film and found it weirdly intriguing, but am sure there are some nuances I missed entirely. Would definitely like to figure out the whole deal with the child’s crib in the train.

But by far the most uplifting moment has been meeting fans of S&A!! Yes, it seems we have some really Cannes-do readers as I’ve met more than I imagined I would who’ve made the pilgrimage to Cannes, and many not for the first time. From film makers, actresses, film archivists, co-directors of another big film festival (though Tambay had already told me that he’d met Cameron Bailey, Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival at Sundance earlier this year, so that he knows the blog wasn’t so much of a surprise, but was still a delight to hear from the horse’s mouth).

Among the S&A fans I met was Nox, who I met with a few other guys chilling on a wall along the beach like they were sitting on a stoop of a Brooklyn brownstone. I asked if they were filmmakers and it turns out they were in town for a gig. Nox was the manager of the artiste and his crew. I asked the artiste what kind of music he performed and, like a perfect gentleman, he stood up, shook my hand, and explained it was hip-hop with infusions of old-school influences like Prince. I was intrigued and did go to the gig a couple of days later as promised, along with a few other friends (old and new… feel like I’ve been collecting black folk at Cannes). Turns out the artiste was someone I’d read about but whose music I’d never listened to – none other than Theophilus London.

He was my second night of live musical entertainment at Cannes, my first being the night before after I happened to bump into a friend I didn’t know was in Cannes, along the beach on the same day I met London. David McAlmont (or tinsel tonsils, as I like to call him) said he kept getting asked if he had a guest list – I told him he did now and then did the typical “coloured people” thing of asking if I could bring with me enough people to populate a small village. We settled on me plus four. Both evenings couldn’t have been more different, musically, but I thoroughly enjoyed them both.

So I’ll leave you for now with some live musical entertainment from this year’s Cannes while I go and find out what’s on offer today. Apparently 200 people are needed for some top secret project… I’ll fill you in once I know the score.