Cannes 2014: What is the glitzy film festival all about and what is the Palme d'Or?

Cannes kicks off on the French Riviera this evening - here's your brief guide

The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today with a screening of Grace of Monaco, but amid all the glitz and glamour, many people will be wondering why it is such a big deal.

So for those who know that the extravaganza involves movies, but not much more, allow us to answer some of your most burning questions.

Where is Cannes?

Cannes is a city located on the French Riviera in the South of France. It is a luxurious place known for attracting the rich and famous. The festival itself takes place at the Palais des Festivals et des Congres.

When is the festival held?

The film festival is an annual event, with the 67th taking place from 14 to 25 May this year. You can only attend if you are invited, sorry folks.

What is the point of the festival?

Cannes previews new films and documentaries from a range of genres across the world and is renowned as one of the most prestigious film festivals.

When did Cannes begin?

The festival was founded as the Festival du Film de Cannes in 1947, with sixteen countries presenting films. It has its origins in the late 1930s, however, when the French Minister of National Education, Jean Zay, set up an international cinematographic festival.

What is the Palme d’Or and why is it such a big deal?

The Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) was created in 1955 to replace the Grand Prix du Festival (the Grand Prize). It is the highest accolade up for grabs at the festival.

There are two Palme d’Ors awarded each year - one for feature film and another for best short film - but when people refer to the prize, they usually mean the former.

The Palme d’Or is presented in a case of blue Moroccan leather with a white suede lining. The palm itself is made of 24-carat gold, hand cast into a wax mould and lain on a cusion of cut crystal.

Who are the main contenders this year?

Buzz films for 2014 include Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, tipped by many to be the Palme d’Or favourite; Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman; Foxcatcher,starring Channing Tatum; The Search from The Artist’s Michel Haznavicius and Berenice Bejo; David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent.

Jimmy’s Hall, Clouds of Sils Maria and British director Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner are also worth keeping an eye on.

 

What major hits have won the top prize in the past?

Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour won the Palme d’Or in 2013, with Michael Moore’s controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 taking it in 2004.

Roman Polanski’s The Pianist triumphed in 2002 and Quentin Tarantino had a hit with Pulp Fiction in 1994. Then there was the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink in 1991and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in 1976.

David Lean’s Brief Encounter won the Grand Prix in 1946 and the first ever winner was Cecil B DeMille with Union Pacific.

What are the awards categories?

The Official Selection is the festival’s main event and could be called ‘the line-up’. This is divided into the following categories:

Competition – 20 films in the running for the Palme d’Or, shown in the main Theatre Lumiere.

Un Certain Regard – 20 films chosen from around the world that often display debuts and experimental techniques

Out of Competition – Films that do not compete for the Palme d’Or due to not fitting the criteria, but the committee wants to recognise

Special Screenings – Films shown in a specially-adapted environment, chosen by the committee

Cinefondation – Shots and medium-lengths exclusively from film students worldwide

Short Films – These compete for the Short Film Palme d’Or

Is there a specific criteria?

Films for Competition, Out of Competition and Un Certain Regard must have been produced in the 12 months prior to the festival. They cannot have been presented internationally in any way, including at any international film festivals or online.

Films must also comply with this official rule: “The spirit of the Festival de Cannes is one of friendship and universal co-operation. Its aim is to reveal and focus attention on works of quality in order to contribute to the progress of the motion picture arts and to encourage the development of the film industry throughout the world.”

Feature films can be as long as they like but short films must be 15 minutes max.

Who judges the submissions?

Thousands of films are submitted to Cannes each year and a selection committee watches every

single one. The entries are cut down to make the Official Selection (see above).

There are two main juries: one for feature films and another for short films and Cinefondation. Un Certain Regard and the Camera d’Or (best first-time film) are also chosen by juries. There is a jury president, which last year was Steven Spielberg and this year is Jane Campion.

Judges vote by secret ballot and the majority wins. Jurors are invited by the selection committee and are all people in the film industry (usually directors and actors). No juror can have a film in competition.

Interestingly, juries have the freedom to create awards depending on the movies in competition. Samuel L Jackson was the first to win a best supporting actor prize for Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991, for example.

Who is the man in the Cannes 2014 poster?

Late Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni is the face behind the official poster. He is shown starring in Federico Fellini’s 1963 film, 8 ½. His other major films include La Dolce Vita, Dark Eyes and Divorce Italian Style.

Read more: Cannes 2014 preview: The famous film festival returns
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