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The French film industry reacts to the potential postponement of the Cannes Film Festival


- Some French film industry professionals assess the option of the Cannes Film Festival unfolding at the end of June-beginning of July, and the idea of a virtual Marché du Film

The French film industry reacts to the potential postponement of the Cannes Film Festival
(© Mathilde Petit/FDC)

With the Cannes Film Festival having decided on 19 March (read our article) to abandon the original dates on which its 73rd edition was supposed to unspool (12 to 23 May), and announcing that, among the various hypotheses under consideration - depending, of course, on “the evolution of the health situation in France and around the world” - “the main one would be quite simply to postpone [the event] to the end of June-beginning of July 2020”, Cineuropa sought to gather a few reactions from French film industry players, who also assessed the possibility of an online Marché du Film (news).

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Nicolas Brigaud-Robert of Playtime reacted as follows: "First of all, we should thank the Cannes Film Festival and Thierry Frémaux for making the decision to cancel the May dates ahead of April 16th. The idea of postponing the festival to the end of June-beginning of July is a very good one and it wouldn’t disrupt the work we do as international sales agents in the slightest. It would be great; we’d go along and dedicate all the usual resources to it. As for the idea of a virtual Marché du Film, there’s no point even thinking about it while there’s still so much uncertainty over whether the Cannes Film Festival will actually go ahead at the end of June–beginning of July. It will also depend on many other factors which are similarly unknown at this point: the dates on which the films will be submitted, their release dates, etc. As it stands, there are too many “ifs” to be able to think logically about this. But, in the meantime, all the films in our line-up whose post-production is at a sufficiently advanced stage have been submitted to the Cannes Film Festival for viewing."

Éric Lagesse of Pyramide, meanwhile, stated that "Delaying rather than cancelling is a wise decision and the best possible solution; it’s the most responsible one, but it’s also the solution which best protects our activities, as these wouldn’t be radically altered by postponing the Cannes Film Festival to the end of June-beginning of July. The Festival’s cancellation, however, would have serious financial implications for us. The idea of a virtual Marché du Film without the festival? It would be difficult, because it’s the interplay between the festival and the market, between the film selection and the market, which is the key driver for events such as Cannes and Berlin. From my viewpoint as a distributer in France, if the Cannes Film Festival were to take place at the end of June–beginning of July under normal circumstances, with a film selection, a jury, the epidemic behind us,  and if all French industry professionals were able to attend, it would have a hugely positive effect on the subsequent release of these films. From an international sales agent’s point of view, given the importance of film buzz and reviews, even if there are 50% fewer international buyers it would still be good to organise a virtual market for journalists and buyers who are unable to travel so that they can discover the films within their Cannes context. Generally speaking, we’re playing it by ear, but up to now, film professionals have all shown themselves to be understanding and supportive. We have to forge onwards."

As for Yohann Comte of Charades, "Any news which doesn’t involve cancellation is good news, even if we clearly can’t be sure about anything right now. Cannes is the biggest market of the year. For projects, promo reels and meetings, we could find stop gaps in the event of a cancellation, but completed films, arthouse cinema and first feature films in particular all require the buzz and prestige of the Cannes Film Festival. Moreover, Venice and Toronto wouldn’t be able to take on all these films, especially since Venice is located within a region that’s badly affected by the epidemic, so we can’t pin our hopes on that particular film festival. At this point in time, if Cannes were to be postponed, the festivals which would suffer the most would be those which haven’t yet been pushed back, such as Karlovy Vary and Locarno. It would also be possible for Cannes to survive an edition without the Americans, and there’s also now a bit of hope for Asia since business seem to be taking off again in this particular part of the world. If the Cannes Film Festival 2002 were unable to take place, the Film Market has sufficient tools to help it sell works. So for films still in the project phase and market films, it would be wholly possible for these particular teams to work and move forwards. On the other hand, in terms of completed films which I would describe as "festival dependants" because they’re reliant on the associated buzz, it would be a real problem. And let’s not forget there are many films whose post-production has ground to a halt. But from our perspective, we’ll be announcing our new line-up, come what may."

Other French industry professionals chose to express themselves anonymously, all agreeing on the good timing of the Cannes team’s announcement ("it was a case of now or never, they had to postpone" one professional affirmed, perfectly summing up the general stance) and on the total unpredictability of the coming months ("we have to stop making forecasts, no-one knows where we will be in three and a half months’ time, or when the epidemic will reach its peak", an international sales agent stressed). Nevertheless, what we can be sure of, insisted another sales agent, is that "the Americans are stunned. It’s as if the Cannes Film Festival were taking place tomorrow!". Within the French film industry, meanwhile, feelings veer between "let’s not be too quick to bury the Cannes Film Festival” - with the hope that an Official Selection might be announced mid-May for a Festival commencing 24 June - and the clear-minded analysis that it will be the state of the health crisis in mid-May to ultimately decide on these matters.

In the event of a forced cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival 2020, the option of an online Festival (for films who agree to it) is being very seriously considered by those who believe the Cannes Film Festival should definitely take place this year, one way or another. As for a potential virtual Marché du Film, all the professionals we made contact with believe that this would be an obvious solution, should the organisation of a physical market prove impossible: "we need a market at one point or another, whatever happens, and if it has to unspool online, so be it. It would be sad, nonetheless, because the essence of our work is to see one another, to talk and to negotiate in the real world." But for now, they all remain hopeful (whilst preparing themselves for all possible outcomes) that the epidemic will be halted in France and that the Cannes Film Festival will be allowed to unfold at the end of June–beginning of July. To be continued…

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(Translated from French)

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