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Cannes 2009: A Return to Normalcy


I spent a few years working with film festivals, and because of the stress, the endless needing to schmooze, entertain, deal with egos etc etc, I simply checked out. It did not seem to be enough about the movies and filmmakers and creative talent, but more about buzz and parties and G-d knows what going on behind the scenes. But this year was different...and it reminded me why film festivals are special...because they are truly international, and bring together people from all over the globe, not just to make money, but also to share ideas, and creative visions, wisdom and stories.

So this year Cannes, even with its behind the scenes chicanery, was also pure pleasure. It seemed that the tone was more human, you could actually have a real conversation with people about passion for projects, collaboration, and all kinds of possibilities again. There were still the beautiful blonds on arms of older men, still the glitzy boats looking like discotheques, but it seemed less like plastic and more like wood again. The weather cooperated for the most part, even if the local unions did not and turned off the electricity and Internet for a few hours, causing screenings to be halted and everyone to have to chill for a while and stop fiddling with their Blackberries long enough to actually enjoy the weather and say "hello".

Human beings are not machines meant to just work all the time and produce profits, and film festivals are not just about "deals" but also about meetings between people from different cultures, good meals and rose wine to be shared, and my favorite, the annual boules tournament held by groups of legal and financial folks from the US, UK and Holland. I just wish that the financial folks met the creative folks more often... that is where things could begin shaping up in interesting ways.

I still managed to see only half of one film as I ran between meetings...but the meetings were more pleasant, more relaxed and yet good work was done and projects advanced. The most interesting meetings were held on sailboats, and up in the hills in the garden of a small villa, and at tiny restaurants in the Old Town. You could actually get a table at the last minute, and even a hotel room on the Croisette, but this did not feel like an "off" year, but rather the beginning of a new direction...and quality.

The one film I did see I saw by accident, and I loved it. I had advanced to the quarter finals in the boules tournament, was late to the BBC party, and missed out on a great dinner in Mougins. While waiting for the next event I killed some time in a lounge chair at the Cinema on the Beach and watched a concert film from the 70s, David Bowie's Spiders from Mars tour. It was fantastic and I found myself singing along, while a French guy jumped up on stage and began playing air guitar (and was hauled away by the police). I watched the audience singing along to all the songs and I was transported back to high school, purple stockings and punk earrings...and I remembered what cinema is all about.