film festival tourism


The Cannes Film Festival

Indian star Aishwarya Rai on the Cannes red carpet

Why Go: For professionals and hard-core cinephiles only.


The website is exceptionally complete and helpful.

Dates: Two weeks in mid-May.

Programming: As is well known, Cannes cherry-picks the best of new international cinema, focusing on favored auteurs. Now under the leadership of Thierry Fremaux, the festival has been pro-active in reaching out beyond Europe and America to discover new cinemas in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Thierry Fremaux

Venues: Beautiful, new theaters in the Palais des Festivals with state-of-the-art screening facilities. Some films are also shown in theaters around the town. As I understand it, these non-Palais screenings are open to the public.

The main entrance of the Palais des Festivals

Getting There: An express bus takes you from the Nice airport into the center of Cannes, about two blocks from the Palais. Or you can take the train, which also stops at the airport and lets you off near the Festival headquarters.

Getting Around: Easy and hard. The theaters for press screenings are all in the Palais, and other venues are close by. On the other hand, there are crowds everywhere. Half the people are in a great hurry, and the other half don’t know where they’re going.

Tickets: I went to some trouble to obtain press credentials, which was well worth the effort. Even though I had the lowest level pass  (yellow), I was able to get into the Palais and to attend all the press screenings and press conferences. A so-called cinephile pass is also available. This credential provides access to some screenings if there is room, but not to the Palais itself.

Program Book: A disappointment. Glossy, with complete credits; but unlike the Toronto program book, which contains discriminating appreciations of the films by fest programmers, Cannes offers only publicity blurbs.

Housing: This is a huge problem. In Cannes, you are expected to book lodging for the entire festival, and rates are astronomical. I found a vacation rental in the seaside village of Cagnes-sur-mer, a ten-minute bus ride from the Nice airport and an easy half-hour train ride into the center of  Cannes (the train station is an easy 15-minute walk from the apartment). This arrangement worked very well for me. The neighborhood was quiet and safe, and the apartment clean and efficient. Generally, I caught the 7:20 train in the morning and returned on the 9:40 train in the evening. (There are also buses, but they take twice as long, and there are not always seats available.) On the one night I came home early, I had a superb dinner in one of the many French bistros that line the quay about four blocks from the apartment. Cost was 650 euros for one week.  I reserved this place through Vacation Rentals by Owner, #162264.

Website: For more  practical information about the festival:

The Festival Year by Year


2010 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Poetry. A  delicate, painful meditation on how art gets made from Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine). Its story concerns an aging, eccentric woman who signs up for a poetry-writing course just as she is unexpectedly caught in a moral quagmire. Won the Festival’s screenwriting award.


Unexpected Pleasure: The unflagging courtesy, helpfulness and efficiency of the large festival staff.

Shock and Awe: Cellphones. Do journalists go to screenings to watch movies or to text?

Review of 2010 Cannes Festival:

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