In 2018 Cannes Film Festival opened its doors to the members of general public for the first time in 71 years. This was decided to do through a programme called "3 Jours à Cannes." The announcement page read:
1,500 film lovers aged between 18 and 28 are invited this year and for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival. During three days (from 17 to 19 May), they can live the 71th edition of the Festival and discover the films of the Official Selection.
All interested and suitable applicants were required to submit a motivation letter, which explained their love for film and why they should be one of the lucky few.
Now, you would think "1500? That's not few!". And they would be right, until put into perspective that the average annual number of accredited-only Cannes Film Festival attendees is 45,000 people (at least it is according to Channel24) and the population of the town grows twice.
Back to the letter, I found out about the opportunity by accident a day or two before it closed. At the time I interned at a company and received a promotional letter to my work email address. I suppose the task of sitting down and really thinking why you want to go served as daunting process in itself, but to me, it was a challenge. And once I set my mind to going for something, I won't let it go. Plus, at the point I just finished my undergraduate dissertation, so this task seemed more than achievable in under two days. I did not realise, however, how emotional and inspiring it would be.
As I was reading about the festival and brainstorming whether I actually am a suitable candidate I wondered upon a great adventure of really understanding how much I love filmmaking. I chose to write about the internationality of film festivals, and, despite the slight tint of idealism, I meant every word. Here is an excerpt:
Cannes Film Festival is a cinematic synonym for international friendship. This year it
features titles that are compassionate to individuals’ spirits, whoever they are and
wherever they are from. Regardless, with films from across the globe, every year the
festival gives the opportunity for its guests to immerse into the parallel reality of
cinema. There a personal perspective has the power to inspire thousands of minds
to reconsider our lives and do so in a poetically visual method, the best ones
powerful enough to makes us feel reborn. Films remind us to surpass classification
and give freedom to empathy towards another’s spirit... May be if everyone could feel what I feel when I create films, there would be much less trouble in the world. Although, then we would have had nothing to make our films about, wouldn’t we?
(If you are interested, you can read the full letter here.)
I felt like a gained an understanding of my passion as well as felt understood by the selection board when I was invited to attend. And it did not disappoint. Naturally for my generation, a Facebook group was created for all attendees and we organised accommodation, schedules and activities in advance not to miss on every opportunity we had. Can't say it didn't feel daunting to do alone, but just on the way there I met a few people flying from London on the same flight as me. There we met people from Italy, China, Russia, America, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa. And even some people from my own university, who I have never crossed paths with somehow. And once in a team, it became a bigger adventure.
Now, I won't lie - as soon as we got our accreditations, it was a mess. No one and nothing can prepare you for the insanity a film festival is. And trust me, once you are there, that doubled number of residence is very noticable. But as long as you stick to the welcome pack information you are given with the badge - you will be OK.
Obviously, we couldn't see everything (that's *khem* simple impossible). There are multiple programmes going on at the same time, each of them with many locations and screenings. A lot of those you have to que for unless you were invited or had tickets in advance. We chose to set our priority to the ones which combined what we wanted to see the most and which screenings were feasible to enter. That meant a lot of early mornings (first screenings start as early as 7-8 am) and a lot of late nights. But in the end we managed to see the following in three days:
Under the Silver Lake
The Gentle Indifference of the World
Solo: A Star Wars Story
The overall experience was more than overwhelming, inspiring, and certainly made us feel special. And the best part was that most of films I saw were exactly what I wrote about in the letter - different, international and sympathetic to someone different than I. Even the people in the programme were of all various professions, but what unified us was our love for film. We watched films, we went out, we swam, we met sunsets and sunrises on the beach dresses up at 20-something years in the midst of Cannes Film Festival. And isn't that alone a memory to keep?
We still keep in touch.