For 12 days in the month of May the city of Cannes celebrates the National Film Agency. The town is filled to capacity with more than 200,000 film makers, stargazers, and film fans, who gather on the Croisette to attend the Cannes Film Festival. During the 12 day span thousands of films are screened, careers are started, and disappointment shows itself. Stars the world over come to get their share of attention.
Since the 1950's when Brigitte Bardot ran on the beach for the cameras in her teenie bikini, Cannes has blossomed to celebrate the worlds most favorite pastimes, cinema and sex. Cannes has grown to be the most famous of all festivals of film. Cannes is spectacular with the palm trees, red carpets, stars that come out to sparkle in the flash of paparzzi cameras, and the famed celebrity parties.
Cannes may not look like the best place to host the world's most famous film festival. Cinema was invented in France, Paris France. The weather in Cannes is nice, but that is not the best selling point. The Cannes Film Festival exists as a result of the rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930's. In 1932 the first competitive film festival was sponsored in Venice. This was called the Mostra di Venezia, and the awards it gave, was mostly about the prestige of the countries that participated, as it was about the films. As time went by, the fascist alliances in certain countries received favoritism when it came to judging the films and giving of awards.
In 1938 Jean Renoir's "La Grande Illusion" was passed by for the top prize in the festival, despite being the obvious favorite of the festival attendees, and the jury members. Instead the award was given to two films, a two-part German film called "Olympia", commissioned by Joseph Goebbels to show the Nazi success of the 1938 Berlin Olympics, and "Luciano Serra, Pilota, made with the supervision of Il Duces son. When the announcement came, the French were furious and withdrew from the festival. The American and British jury members resigned to protest the fact that fascism could walk all over artistic excellence.
Later that same year, a group of film makers and critics petitioned the French government to put run an alternative, international film festival in France. A festival where film makers could show their films and compete without censorship or bias. The French government was not very happy about going against Mussolini, and were dragging their feet. The group kept putting pressure on the government, and they finally gave consent to the event.
The competition is the main event of the festival today, this is where the glory and glamour come in. The films screened are referred to as being "in competition". The most coveted award is the Golden Palm for best picture. This is one of the most prestigious awards on earth, and will give the film a huge boost. For low budget films and novice film makers, this can mean millions of extra dollars at the international box office, for foreign films it brings worldwide distribution. The competition is usually open to narrative films only, but there are times when a documentary is introduced. Michael Moore's " Fahrenheit 9/ 11" won the top prize in 2004. The film makers are welcome to enter both features and shorts. There are awards in each category.