Cannes Film Festival

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I believe that most people know about the Cannes Film Festival which takes place every year on the French Riviera. However you might not know about its history. The festival was first scheduled to debut on September 20, 1939 but had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of WW II.

It is interesting to know that the world’s first annual international film festival was inaugurated at Venice in 1932. Unfortunately by 1938 the Venice Film Festival was basically controlled by Fascist and Nazi propaganda. Two nations Italy under Benito Mussolini and Germany under Adolf Hitler were dictating what films were to be shown and then sharing the prizes. It was then that France made the decision to organize an alternative film festival. It was decided to hold the film festival in Cannes and one of the resorts in the town agreed to host it. The Cannes Film Festival was to be held from September 1 to 20, 1939. By mid-August all of the selected film stars and filmmakers began arriving.

Among the film selections from the U.S. was “The Wizard of Oz”, from France “The Nigerian”, from Poland “The Black Diamond” and from the U.S.S.R. “Tomorrow, It’s War”. On September 1 the skies were stormy and on this day Hitler invaded Poland and the French government ordered a general mobilization. The Cannes Film Festival was cancelled after just the screening of one film. It was German, American director William Dieterle’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. After two days both France and Britain declared war on Germany.

After six long and weary war years France’s provincial government agreed to a revival of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. The festival began on September 20, 1946 and the films of 18 nations were represented. Among them was “The Lost Weekend” directed by Austrian American director Billy Wilder, “Open City” by Italian director Roberto Rossellini, “The Battle of the Rails” by French director Rene Clement and “Brief Encounter” by British director David Lean. Of all of the films presented nine of them won the top award Grand Prix fu Festival.

Afterward, the festival had its ups and downs. In 1948 and 1950 the festival had to be canceled for economic reasons. Then in 1952, the Palais des Festivals became the permanent home for the festival and in 1955 they introduced the Golden Palm or Palme d’Or award for best film. It was in the 1950s that the Cannes Film Festival got the reputation of being the most prestigious film festival in the world. The festival is now held every May and over 30,000 people attend. People go to see the famous and the famous go to be seen and heard.

Author: Rasma Raisters

I am a poet and writer. I dream big and enjoy life.


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