With the promise of going green this year and changing its consumer image, the Cannes Film Festival included a list of films on environmental issues and even trimmed its famous red carpet, although there was enough crimson fabric left to host the famous Monday night. cast of Wes Anderson’s film ‘The French Dispatch’.
For big movie fans, Cannes is first and foremost an endurance test: sitting down and watching – and sometimes dozing – three, four, five movies a day (and then sometimes writing about them). It’s also a frantic race between screenings, vaccination credential and certificate scans, metal detectors, and meticulous purse inspections.
This year the film offering is so abundant that critics will be on the verge of an overdose from the big screen.
After last year’s failure by Covid-19, the festival organizers have arranged the 11 days of film bonanza with enough material to cope with the next pandemic. There are 24 films for the official selection and five times more in the multiple competitions and parallel screenings, perhaps to compensate for the shortage of parties.
The flurry of movies can sometimes take unusual tonal and thematic twists, such as starting on a Monday morning at 8am with the haunting ‘Babi Yar. Context ‘by Sergei Loznitsa, dedicated to one of the greatest massacres of the Holocaust, and to close the day in a beach chair during the screening of’ Fast & Furious 9 ‘, at the’ Cinéma de la Plage ‘ from Cannes.
In between, two of the most anticipated films this year put a spin on the competition for the Palme d’Or. Russian iconoclast Kirill Serebrenikov premiered ‘Petrov’s Flu’, a surreal nocturnal journey through a post-Soviet urban landscape ( although the authorities in Moscow again prohibited him from attending the festival). And Wes Anderson presented his long-awaited ode to the print press with ‘The French Dispatch,’ featuring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Timothée Chalamet, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe and every other actor you’d expect to see in a Wes Anderson movie.
With its celebrity parade, the film was immediately one of the festival’s highlights for all the major red carpet photographers, although France’s Léa Seydoux – declared the “queen” of Cannes this year with four films at the festival – did not attended after having tested positive for Covid-19.
“We need a planet”
Two films from a new segment on climate change were also screened Monday night, part of Cannes’ efforts to put the environmental emergency at the heart of its concerns in the wake of the pandemic. Among those was Rahul Jain’s ‘Invisible Demons’, a disturbing portrait of the catastrophic pollution that is ruining the director’s native New Delhi.
Speaking to France 24 prior to the film’s release, Jain stated that it was about time the big film festivals tackled those issues head-on.
“For all the stories, all the wars and all the peace treaties, all the romantic and sports sagas we need a planet,” he said. “So I’m really glad this is finally happening. Everyone and everyone in a position of power and cultural diffusion should take this into account ”.
Other films included in the new section include ‘I Am So Sorry’ by China Zhao Liang, about the dangers of nuclear energy, and ‘Above Water’ by Senegal-born French actress Aïssa Maïga, which addresses the impact of global warming on Niger.
“Cinema has an impact on our imagination, on our social ties and even sometimes on politics,” Maïga told France 24 a few days ago during the festival. “And in terms of global warming, I think it’s a wonderful way to connect with audiences on a global scale, and it’s a wonderful way to give a voice to those who don’t have it.”
An ecological red carpet
Along with the new programming, Cannes organizers announced an environmental action plan to reduce waste and lower the event’s carbon footprint.
Going green involves performing a delicate juggling act for a festival that is careful not to spoil its celebrations. Cannes knows that glamor is as important as movies. The event relies heavily on celebrities flying in from all over the world and celebrations that tend to generate mountains of garbage.
A few years ago, a viral video posted by a local diver revealed a quantity of debris on the seabed, just a few meters from the beaches of Cannes. As one reporter pointed out after close inspection, the trash included the press kits from ‘Grace of Monaco’, the film that opened the festival in 2014.
Although it is the pinnacle of the immense world circus of festivals and parties, the Cannes Film Festival has long been an ecological hazard. In fact, it has lagged behind other events, such as the Berlinale, which recently implemented the use of red carpets made from recycled fishing nets.
To compensate, this year Cannes halved the volume of its famous red carpet and made it from recycled materials, instead of the usual PVC. It also banned the use of plastic bottles, deployed a fleet of electric cars and instituted a contribution of 20 euros from each attendee to offset their carbon footprint.
“Motivated by hope”
Similar actions should be taken in the film industry, French writer and director Flore Vasseur told reporters during a press conference at the Palais des Festivals on Sunday, which brought together documentary filmmakers and environmental activists.
“This industry doesn’t have a great track record on this matter,” Vasseur said. “We are all on a learning curve, we are looking for solutions.”
Produced by Marion Cotillard, Vassseur’s documentary ‘Bigger than Us’ follows Indonesian teenage activist Melati Wijsen as she travels the world to meet other young people who are leading the fight for climate and social justice. Vasseur stated that the young activists pressured his team to take actions such as removing plastic during filming.
Remember that we are all in this, and that (…) together we can make a change
In conversation with France 24 last week, Wijsen urged young people around the world not to “underestimate” their ability to mobilize and create meaningful change.
“If you want to start acting, do your homework, do your research: know what is local for you, what is happening, what is not happening, and understand where you can play an important role,” he said. “Remember that we are all in this, and that (…) together we can make a change.”
Young activists are also at the heart of Cyril Dion’s ‘Animal’, starring 18-year-old British Bella Lack, along with animal protection pioneer Jane Goodall.
“People think that all young people are terrified and motivated by fear (…). Actually, I’m motivated by hope and imagination, ”Lack said. during the press conference on Sunday. “This is how the film industry and Cannes can act: as a vehicle to catalyze the imagination of adults.”
This article was adapted from its original in English