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Cannes Film Festival Abandons Physical Festival

13 May

Alike many other festivals this year, Cannes Film Festival has been forced to adapt to the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is aiming to remain intact by sponsoring screenings at other festivals and cinemas of the films that would have been featured in this year’s selection.

In an interview with Screen, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux said he “could never have imagined” something like the cancellation of the festival, which was originally due to start tomorrow and was “overcome with a great sense of melancholy and nostalgia”. He states “Under the circumstances, a physical edition of Cannes 2020 is hard to envisage, so we’ll have to do something different … Everyone understands that [it is] impossible this year.”

The festival announced in April that it had been forced to call off its event in its traditional mid-May slot after restrictions by the French government banned mass gatherings until mid-July at the earliest. Tentative suggestions that a postponed version could be mounted later in the year appear to have been abandoned. Cannes has also appeared to resist calls to go down with the digital route and construct a “virtual” festival online, unlike many other festivals including Sydney International Film festival.

Frémaux stated, at the beginning of June, Cannes would announce a list of films that would have screened as part of this years edition; he mentioned titles that included Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Spike Lee’s da 5 Bloods, Nanni Moretti’s Three Stories, and the Pixar animation Soul. Eligibility is restricted to films that would have gone on theatrical release between summer 2020 and spring 2021. Then Frémaux states, “The aim is to start organizing events in cinemas” – what he termed “Cannes hors les murs” or “Cannes outside the walls”.

Details on how this choice will commence have not been finalized, but Frémaux suggested screenings are likely to take place at other film festivals later this year. He listed a series of festivals – Toronto, Deauville, San Sebastian, New York, Busan – which will feature numerous films, as well as the other Lumiere festival in Lyons, of which Frémaux is also managing director, Cannes is planning to jointly present films with the Venice film festival, which is due to begin on 2 September.

Frémaux also called for support from the public and the government for cinemas, stating “there will need to be protection measures, especially around rents, and economic safeguards. The way the Germans do it: no dismissals, and everyone stays ready for a return to normal. We protected the banks in 2008, so let’s protect cinemas, theatres and bookshops in 2020. Personally, to live, I need my bank. But I also need cinema”

We cannot agree more.

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