I'm about to get on a plane and head to France for the next 3 weeks, so it seems only fitting to me that over the past 24 hours or so, a debate has emerged about the Cannes Film Festival, the significance of its awards, and its overall relevance, with John Anderson (in the New York Times), David Poland (on his blog) and Anthony Kaufman (in his blog) weighing in. Summarizing their points very roughly, Anderson writes that Cannes' awards carry no weight in America, Poland seems to mostly dismiss the festival, and Kaufman writes that Anderson gets it wrong entirely. In general, though, it seems to me that judging the festival based on the perceived value of its jury awards or on the number of competition films with U.S. distribution is missing the point.
The fact is that the Cannes Film Festival remains the most important annual film event in the world. It is a showcase and marketplace for the entire international film industry that plays out in front of some 30,000 "professionals" (filmmakers, journalists, buyers, sellers, programmers, producers, and others) from around the world.
I value Cannes becuase it will not only be my first chance to see a bunch of new films from both emerging and established filmmakers (in a theatrical setting that features some of the best sound and projection anywhere), but after the screening, I will have an opportunity to talk with many of those filmmakers about their work. Not to mention the business side which offers a chance to get a clearer picture of the state of the international film business than any other annual industry event.
Ok, now I need to finish packing my bags...