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Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival has acknowledged today (April 14) that its plan to reschedule its 73rd edition for end-June, early-July is no longer viable and said it is considering other options. This follows a French government decision to continue a ban on large gatherings until at least mid-July, as part of measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“Following the French President’ statement, on Monday, April 13th, we acknowledged that the postponement of the 73rd International Cannes Film Festival, initially considered for the end of June to the beginning of July, is no longer an option,” the festival said in a statement.

“It is clearly difficult to assume that the Festival de Cannes could be held this year in its original form,” it continued. “Nevertheless, since yesterday evening we have started many discussions with professionals, in France and abroad. They agree that the Festival de Cannes, an essential pillar for the film industry, must explore all contingencies allowing to support the year of Cinema by making Cannes 2020 real, in a way or another.

”When the health crisis, whose resolution remains the priority of all, passes, we will have to reiterate and prove the importance of cinema and the role that its work, artists, professionals, film theatres and their audiences, play in our lives. This is how the Festival de Cannes, the Marché du Film and the parallel sections (Semaine de la Critique, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, ACID), intend to contribute. We are committed to it and we would like to thank everyone who is by our side, public officials (Cannes’ City Hall, Ministry of Culture, the CNC), industry members as well as our partners.

“Each and everyone knows that many uncertainties are still reigning over the international health situation. We hope to be able to communicate promptly regarding the shapes that this Cannes 2020 will take.”

It remains to be seen how Cannes and the parallel sections of Cannes Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight will proceed. Cannes Film Festival delegate general Thierry Frémaux has said he is not prepared to run a digital version of the festival, in which Official Selection titles are not shown on the big screen.

Various rumours were flying around the French film industry on Tuesday, including that the Cannes Film Festival was mulling autumn dates, a move that would have far-reaching ramifications for the film festival and market calendar as well as awards season.

Another suggestion doing the rounds was that the parallel sections were considering running events in Paris in September. For now, however, all this is conjecture while Cannes and the sections continue to consult with the French government, the industry and rival festivals such as Venice. 

French lockdown continues

The Cannes statement comes the day after a televised address to the nation by French president Emmanuel Macron in which he set out the government’s tentative plan to lift a strict lockdown of the country’s 66million-strong population which has been in place since March 17 to combat the Covid-10 pandemic. 

Macron said France’s lockdown would be extended until May 11, after which the aim was to progressively re-open workplaces and schools if the virus was under control and only where proper hygiene and spacing measures could be put in place.

In the same address, Macron said public spaces such as cafes, restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and museums would remain closed until further notice. He added: ”Big festivals and events with a large audience will not be able to take place at least until mid-July.”

This was a blow to the Cannes management team’s original plan to reschedule this year’s event for the end of June and early July, having announced on March 19 that it was dropping the original May 12-23 dates due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Uncertainty reigns, however, over whether the French government will be able to implement its plan to lift the lockdown. Although the spread of the virus appears to be slowing in France due to restrictions on movement, it remains to be seen what happens when those restrictions are lifted. The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in France, stood at 14,967 as of April 13. 

It is only the second time in its 73-year history that the Cannes Film Festival has been disrupted. It was famously cancelled in May 1968, when a group of filmmakers led by Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Claude Berri stormed the event out of sympathy for the worker and student protests sweeping the country, forcing it to shut down.

Prior to that, an initial attempt to the launch the festival in September 1939 was also called off after the opening gala on August 31, attended by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Gary Cooper and Norma Shearer, due to the outbreak of the Second World War. It was eventually relaunched on September 20, 1946.