King Cannes: Small Films at the Biggest Film Festival in the World

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The Cannes Film Festival is pretty much universally considered the most significant film festival in the world. Along with Venice and Berlin, it makes up the Holy Trinity of film festivals, while Toronto, New York, and Sundance act as the American foils. Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or, is very likely the most prestigious prize in world cinema.

Last year’s jury, lead by Steven Spielberg, gave the award to the main actresses and director of the beautiful Blue Is the Warmest Colour, which helped thrust the difficult-to-market NC-17 film into the spot light. It was the first time the Palme d’Or was given to performers as well as a director (Cannes doesn’t allow the Palme d’Or-winning film to film any other awards, and the Spielberg-lead jury decided that actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux were largely responsible for the film’s greatness.)

Cannes juries have a lot of leniency compared to juries of other festivals, which means the films that win big at Cannes are always worth seeking out. To date, the film with the most awards is the Coen Brother’s post-modern period piece Barton Fink, nabbing the Palme d’Or, Best Director, and Best Actor for John Turturro. After Barton Fink swept the awards, the rules were changed so that the Palme d’Or-winning film couldn’t win any other awards.

The festival is a multi-tiered and complicated affair. It’s invitation-only, broken into different categories, each of which is subsequently broken into other sub-sections: The Official Selection (In Competition, Un Certain Regard), Parallel Selections (Cannes Classics), Other Sections (Director’s Fortnight.) It’s easy to get lost in the mania, and this year has a noticeable lack of big-name American filmmakers; there are no Tarantinos, no Scorseses, no Coppolas, and no Nolans. The biggest films of this year’s festival are foreign (as in not American) or independent: Jean-Luc Godard, the Dardenne brothers, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Michel Hazanavicius, Tommy Lee Jones, and Xavier Dolan are among the directors with films in this year’s Cannes competition of 18 features. Ryan Gosling’s debut feature, Lost River (previously called How to Catch a Monster), is highly anticipated, as is David Michod’s The Rover, starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson.

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