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Cannes 2021 boosts cinematic dreams



The public image of the Cannes Film Festival is one of glamour.

There’s the backdrop of turquoise waves lapping the sandy beach, chic French Mademoiselles strolling down the Croisette, designer-clad stars gliding up the steps of the Palais. All that is true, of course. But the festival is essentially a business place. People are there to sell their films, their ideas, their scripts and their talent. The glitzy face of the festival exists to entice the newcomers and the hungry for success. This, all this, could be yours, it says, if you just strike the right deal.

So, although this year I decided against taking a flight out to the south of France because of the concerns about the pandemic, it’s still been possible to keep an eye on what projects are being touted around the festival. I’ve still managed to take up online invitations to events and hear what attendees have to say.

Everyone I’ve spoken to remotely has agreed that nothing beats meeting people face-to-face. Virtual contact is helpful in the current circumstances, but the buzz of seeing someone, hearing their pitch, getting their feedback is what the film industry is all about. This year’s attendees are delighted to be back in person.

I was lucky enough to be asked to moderate one event for the French Riviera Film Festival, focusing on short films. Short in this context can be anything from 2- 40 minutes. I had an hour-long discussion with finalists from around the world, two of whom were in Cannes. The wealth of talent and storytelling I encountered is hugely encouraging for the future of the industry. It was particularly significant to see so many female voices coming through. They assured me that they are not a ‘fad’. They are very much here to stay, not to replace the male voice but to add to it.

In a world where so many are happy to cause division, each of the women panellists I spoke to saw themselves as collaborators with men, and they were appreciative of the male support they have had. In addition, the male panellists said of their own upcoming projects, which centred around women. They did not consider these to be ‘women’ projects, simply great stories that need to be told.

I’m also thrilled to be on the panel of judges for this short film festival and can say that the standard of film production, direction, screenplays are very high.

Look out for the work of Anna Fishbeyn. Her short, Invisible Alice, has just won Best Drama Short at the festival. It’s a musical and a precursor to her movie Galaxy 360: A Woman’s Playground. She reverses gender roles and makes men the objectified sexual playthings for women who are very much in control and in power.

Invisible Alice

London based director and screenwriter Eva Lanska has created a powerful film in which, in under 2 minutes, she creates more tension than many filmmakers achieve in an entire feature film. Little French Fish about the relationship between an orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim man packs enough punch to make one wait in breathless anticipation for her upcoming feature I Am Not An Actress, based on the philosophy of French icon Brigitte Bardot.

Little French Fish

Christina Rose is at Cannes presenting her six-part documentary series Wonder Women about young women in underrepresented industries, such as a female Indian pilot.

Even more inspiring is that several of these projects were filmed during the pandemic, with all the restrictions in place that there are. It just shows the ingenuity of filmmakers in the most trying circumstances.

It was a similarly inspiring picture at the event I attended organised by the Swedish Film Institute. We were told that the Swedish industry kept going during the pandemic. Fifteen productions had continued shooting; 4 drama series and eleven movies. Several of the films had been completed in time for the main Cannes festival. Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, Valdimar Johansson’s Lamb among them. Bergman Island, directed by Mia Hansen -Love, was filmed during 2018-29 and is currently dazzling critics and fans alike.

We also heard about a great new scheme, a one year fund to finance international productions. So far, filmmakers in the Ukraine, Brazil, Sudan and Kurdish cinema have benefited from the scheme. The scheme received 1000 applications for financial assistance, including 200 for postproduction support and 600 for development funding.

It seems that whatever the obstacles, people simply want to make films.

So, we can safely say, recent reports of the demise of cinema have been greatly exaggerated.

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