Selfies, #MeToo and glamorous films at Cannes

Seeing red: Married couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in Cannes. © Getty

Is cinema dead? The world’s most prestigious film festival is underway. This year, Cannes has been rocked by a slew of silly and serious scandals. But the movies themselves are promising...

There are many rules when walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Women are encouraged to wear high heels. Men must wear tuxedos. And this year, there is another new rule: no selfies. The “disorder” which selfies create “tarnishes the quality” of the red carpet, explained artistic director Thierry Frémaux.

And that is just one of the rows at Cannes this year.

Off the red carpet, there are new rules dictating when journalists can actually see the films; arguments about the lack of female directors up for the main prize, the Palme d’Or; a scandal over the return of director Lars Von Trier, who was banned from attending in 2011; and an ongoing debate over whether Netflix films should be allowed to enter.

In response to criticisms (and the #MeToo movement), Cannes has appointed a majority-female jury for the first time this year, with Cate Blanchett at the helm. She has defended the festival’s strict glamour rules: “Being attractive does not preclude being intelligent,” she argued.

What of the films she will be judging?

The festival opened on Tuesday with Everybody Knows, a thriller by director Asghar Farhadi. It stars Penelope Cruz as a mother returning home to Spain, where she is confronted with secrets from her past.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is based on a true story of an African-American detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s.

Under the Silver Lake stars Andrew Garfield as a young man from LA who becomes obsessed with secret codes as he tries to find his missing neighbour.

Also showing at the festival — but not competing for the top prize — are documentaries about Whitney Houston, Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis.

And for fantasy fans, there is a screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story, a new prequel about a young Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca in a galaxy far, far away.

Is it fair to accuse Cannes (and cinema in general) of becoming irrelevant?

No Cannes do

Yes, argue some. The festival is stubbornly refusing to keep up with the times, whether it is banning selfies or Netflix. Such snobbery is a surefire way to turn off ordinary film fans, who would often rather stream movies in their own home than pay sky-high prices for a cinema ticket anyway. The inclusion of a Star Wars film is merely a reminder that filmmakers have run out of ideas.

Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated, say others. Sure, Cannes has rigorous standards — but that is a good thing for such a prestigious event. (It takes place in France, after all.) As for cinema, there is something for everyone. The stories are told beautifully, they are becoming more diverse, and they tackle important themes about family, justice and human nature. Vive le cinéma!

You Decide

  1. Do you care which films are showing at Cannes this year?
  2. Is the cinema (as opposed to streaming or television) dying?


  1. Rank the seven films mentioned in this article in the order in which you would most like to see them. Discuss your list with the person sitting next to you.
  2. Split into groups. It is time to learn how to pitch! Come up with an idea for a movie that you would like to see made. Think about the story, the genre and the actors you want involved. Then, take in turns to sell your idea to the rest of the class. Once you are done, the class will vote for the film they think should get made.

Some People Say...

“Cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone.”

Martin Scorsese

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The festival opened on Tuesday and will be screening brand new films until May 19. There are 18 films competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or prize this year, including three that were directed by women. The prize will be decided by a “jury” of well-known figures from world cinema, including actors and directors. This year the jury’s president is Cate Blanchett.
What do we not know?
Which film will win this year’s prize — almost all of the contenders are yet to be seen or reviewed by critics. Past winners have been varied, from the British anti-austerity film I, Daniel Blake to the French lesbian love story Blue Is The Warmest Colour to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Word Watch

Cannes Film Festival
The first major film festival of the calendar year, which takes place on the French Riviera. This will be its 71st festival.
New rules
In previous years, critics were allowed to see films the morning before their official premiere. That has now changed, as Cannes did not want negative reviews online to spoil the buzz around a film before its first official showing.
Female directors
There are three films directed by women up for the Palme d’Or this year, out of 18. While this sounds small, consider 2012, when the official competition had no female directors.
French law prevents films that have been in the cinema from appearing on streaming sites for at least three years. Meanwhile, Cannes insisted that its films must have a cinema run to be eligible for its prize. In response, Netflix pulled all of its films due to show at Cannes last week.
A movement protesting sexual harassment that began with accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein. This year, Cannes has set up a sexual harassment hotline for its stars.


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