Visiting the Cannes Film Festival – Where the worst possible thing you can do is see a movie

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Uri Aviv is the founder and director of the Utopia international festival for science fiction and fantastic genre films, Tel-Aviv, he is a cultural producer and a science fiction evangelist.

The Cannes Film Festival is the most important film event in the world – both the most renowned international film festival, and more importantly, an international film industry gathering, like none other. Some of the most highly expected films of the year make their debut at Cannes – off the top of my head, from this years’ selection, were Mad Max, Pixar’s new film Inside/out, The Little Prince, Macbeth and so many others… More than 1500 films shown at the festival & market, but of course the most glitzy and glamorous are the red carpet Lumiere screenings (that’s the name of the theater) – to which invitations are hard to come by and sought after by all.

Films are at the heart of this event, it is the reason thousands upon thousands of people congregate at Cannes from the world over, it is the meaning of this entire event, and for the aspiring and up-and-coming film professional, it is one of the worst things to do during the Cannes film festival. How so?

Well, first of all, of course I exaggerate. Everything about Cannes is ridiculous, from the over the top fashion and attitude to the prices. But if you’re already there, you should indulge, and if there’s a film or two that you’ve been waiting for ages for, then by all means – get the invite. And if you’re paid to see films – as a scout, a programmer or a journalist, then again – of course. But if you’re there as a professional aspiring to promote one's projects, one's business, oneself, then one needs to remind oneself at all times – all around you are the elite of the international film industry. Sales agents, buyers, producers, festival directors and programmers, the top international press. Every cocktail, reception, workshop, panel, party, after-party, every line you stand in for coffee, is a networking opportunity. Cannes is not a public festival, there are nearly no screenings where general-public is admitted. The city of Cannes is flooded by the international film industry – why spend your time in a darkened theater, when you can be outside, mingling, drinking, and meeting your next potential employer, partner or employee?

This has been my sixth consecutive Cannes, and I already feel as if it’s a sort of “home away from home.” I keep learning, and Cannes and myself, as well as the atmosphere and social setting, keep changing – but the previous years’ experience, the lessons learnt and especially the connections, partnerships and substantial friendships made, strengthened throughout the year were, as always, a precious resource. The confidence of knowing your way around this huge circus, the feeling that you have friends and colleagues in this huge “balagan,” and actually seeing some order in the chaos.

This year has been a breakout year for me, all a result of ROI and the ROI Micro Grants – I’ve been able to attend not only the Cannes film festival, which I’ve been to before, but also SXSW and Tribeca. Attending these one after the other has made a substantial impact on the perception my global circle of colleagues and industry partners and friends have of my projects and me. I hope this will continue of course.

The ROI Micro Grant is what enabled me to attend this annual glorious celebration of cinema. If it were not for ROI I would not be able to afford attending this ridiculously expensive event, and Cannes attendance is imperative to my continual professional development. For this opportunity and support I am forever grateful.