UGA at Cannes

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Holy crap, that’s Wes Anderson.” I wish I could have spoken more eloquently but those were the words that flew out of my mouth as the lanky ginger-haired director walked out of the door of the famous Lumiere Theater and on to the Red carpet in front of me. What was spoken next was a less than audible string of words that were said at such a high decibel, only dogs and a select group of bats and marine life could fully make it out as I begged him for his autograph. So marked the beginning of my trip to the Cannes Festival du Film and it only got better from there.

Rewind back three weeks and our story begins as we follow twenty-seven University of Georgia undergraduate students embarking on the Cannes Film Festival Study Abroad program. As we boarded the plane we were nervous, excited, and if any of the other students were like me then they were probably pretty hungry. I arrived in France with about 10 other students and we would have been hopelessly lost without each other. I didn’t know what to expect rolling into our French residence in the tiny coastal town of Juan le Pins, France. Considered to be the Panama City Beach of France, Juan was full of fellow tourist and summer vacationers. The next day as people trickled in throughout the afternoon excitement and nerves began to creep in. Am I really about to attend the Cannes Film Festival?

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to pinch myself awake I decided to accept it as truth and prepare the best way I could, by texting someone to help me. Twenty of us managed to cram ourselves into one tiny room as we poured over the market books, which displayed the synopsis, location, and time of every screening during the next week and a half. After six hours, thousands of summaries, and two bottles of wine we had each chosen our desired schedule for the days ahead. Next stop Cannes.

For those of you who may not know much about the festival itself, Cannes is a week and a half long event along the French Riviera where films are shown and bought. It is widely hailed as one of the most prominent and elite venues to showcase works of cinema. Cannes is unique in that it is one of the only film festivals to incorporate a market into its festivities, where big name distributors as well as lesser known companies can make contacts, sell their films and have a chance to attend screening for the films outside of the competition. Cannes is also home to the competition for the Palm D’or. Second only to an Oscar, the Palm is one of the most prestigious awards and recognitions in the film world. Over four thousand films played in the Marche du Film alone and the in and out of competition films reached hundreds. There was no shortage of things do or see in a day and if you weren’t at a screening then you weren’t doing it right.

As our first days began we weren’t sure what to expect from the event. I knew that the opening film for the festival was Wes Anderson’s latest work “Moonrise Kingdom” about a young boy and girl who fall in love and run away together. As a HUGE Wes Anderson fan I knew that my one and only goal for the entire festival was going to be getting in to that premier. I woke up the first morning fully packed and prepared for the day just to arrive at the train station and find that the train was delayed by 30 minutes.

Cannes Life Lesson #1: Don’t trust the trains.
Cannes Life Lesson #2: Your schedule never works out the way your planned. Go with it.

After invading just about everyone’s personal space on the overly packed train and sprinting to the theater, my friends and I finally made it to our first screening of the festival, Detachment. It was a market screening so only a select few of us with grey Market badges were even allowed in. The theater was much smaller then I had originally imagined and seats began filling up fast. As I plunked into the red cushy chair a sense of exhilaration wafted over me. My brain was numb, I couldn’t recall the name of the film I was about to see, who was in it, what the synopsis had said, let alone the names of my two friends sitting next to me. Cannes Life Lesson #3: Make it a priority to memorize the names of the people you’re with so you don’t run the risk of calling someone Sally when her name is Julia. Then the room went dark and the projector was kicked on. The sound of the film running through the metal box brought back memories of seeing movies with my father as a kid. We would sit in the back row close to the projector because he thought the sound it made added something to the whole visceral experience; something intangible but definitely real. Detachment turned out to be the story of an inner city school and the group of teachers, subs, parents, and students who inhabit it. It was very heavy but completely worth the asthma attack it took to
get there.

Cannes Life Lesson #4: Try unfamiliar things. More often than not they work out for the best.

After having one screening under our belt we went on to the next, the next and the next. After a while you don’t really hear the little voice in your head telling you that you need food or that you’re tired. All you know is that if you don’t get into that next screening you’re going to go Hulk on somebody! By the time that I couldn’t feel my eyeballs anymore I knew I needed to turn in. I made my way to the American Pavilion, a closed off area where Americans in the Market get exclusive rights to pay 12 euros for a quesadilla, get drinks, and hob nob in English. It’s a mini slice o’ paradise.

Fully rested and repatriated we decided to begin the humiliating yet rewarding process of begging for tickets. Certain movies at the festival are being premiered for the very first time on the screens of Cannes. For these movies, they reserve the red carpet and the majestic Lumiere Theater. These screenings are impossible to get into if you don’t have a badge and a ticket. Lucky for us, we have a badge.. just no tickets.

Cannes Life Lesson #5: It’s all about how you spin it.

For this process you get all fancied up then you hit the streets with a sign and a smile asking anyone in a tux for “une billet supplementaire”. With half of the street population doing this odds are not in your favor unless you’re a very attractive girl. I sauntered out into the crowd like a male peacock and waited open handed for my ticket to come. Long story short, I sat on the grassy knoll and watched as all my hopes and dreams walked up the red carpet without me. My beloved Wes, Bill, Bruce, Eva Longoria for some reason, and all the students who managed to get tickets. I along with a few other unfortunate souls all found our way back to the AmPav and proceeded to swap stories about our attempts at scoring tickets. Around 9:45 pm we were being shepherded out of the area and decided to go home with our tails between our legs and wait for our chances tomorrow. As we began walking back across the knoll a barrier and a very red carpet stopped us. We had some how stumbled upon not only the Moonrise Kingdom after party but also the entrance to that after party. Any star coming in had to walk right in front of me.

Cannes Life Lesson #6: Always go to the AmPav.

There we stayed until 11 pm watching every member of the cast and a few extra celebs walk inches away.  Just as I had gotten all the star struck out of me I notice a talk skinny long-haired man approaching. Could it be? Oh yes it could! Wes Anderson himself in the flesh right here. A stream of questions and shrieks whizzed through my head. “Do I look okay? Did I put on deodorant this morning? I didn’t, did I? It’s okay Ali you always smell good no matter what! Why did I have to eat those sour cream and onion chips!?”

As he walked by I knew this was my only chance. “Wes!” I shouted, “Wes Anderson!” He turned around, saw my group of friends and I and began walking over. “Mr. Anderson I’m one of your biggest fans! I love all of your work I’ve seen everything you’ve ever made even Bottle Rocket! You’re the reason why I want to work in the film industry. Last night I watch the Life Aquatic to prepare for the premiere today. I can’t believe this!” That is what I wish I had said. Instead a stream of 12-year-old girl consciousness came out and I said all of that in a jumble of squeals and giggles. “That’s so nice of you, thank you so much Miss. You chose a great movie to help you prepare. I hope you get a chance to see the movie tonight.” He replied. His voice was like weird honey; sweet but quirky, just like him. He handed me my program back with his signature and let a small smile slip across his face as he walked away and just like that Wes was gone.

That was our very first night in Cannes and it proved to be an omen for the rest of our time spent there. When we ventured out of our comfort zones we found ourselves surrounded by passionate and artistic people who wanted to share this festival with us. Cannes is place that is not experienced by many. Should you get the chance make it an experience you won’t forget.   Don’t back away from a challenge; don’t turn away because things are foreign. If a guy in a tan suit tells you “No!” just shout in your most intimidating voice “My colleagues are in there!” Walk through the streets by yourself. Eat a crepe or 2 or 8! In short, go to Cannes. Be apart of something you love.

Viva la France Viva il Cinema!

Written by Alison Bridges


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