Though Cannes Film Festival debuted in 1946 its origins lie much earlier. The original notion came forth in 1932; historian Philippe Erlanger proposed the idea to Jean Zay who was the French Minister of National Education at the time, he with the support of both the British and the Americans began to set up an international cinematographic festival. It’s likely that the prospect was favoured in competition of the Venice Film Festival which at the time had an overwhelmingly bias view towards fascism. Cannes was chosen as the location for the festival with its initial outing set for 1939. Unfortunately, with the arrival of World War II plans were scuppered, though the dream hadn’t died, and the festival would finally be revealed to the world on 20th September 1946.
Since its debut Cannes has gone on to become one of the most important showcases for European films in existence. It’s become a proving ground for European filmmakers and is a major player in enforcing the notion that European cinema is likely the best example of art house cinema the world over. That’s not to say the guest list is continentally exclusive, due to its invite only policy the festival sees some of the biggest names in the business from all over showcasing their work to distributers in hopes of making a deal for public release.
Finally we have the Berlin International Film Festival. This is the youngest of the three making its debut in 1951. Unlike Cannes, this is festival is open to anyone willing to buy a ticket and has the largest public attendance of any annual film festival. Roughly 300,000 tickets are sold each year with around an incredible 500,000 admissions. A maximum of 400 films are shown at the festival with 20 of them competing for its awards, the main being the ‘Golden Bear’ award. Several ‘Silver Bear’ awards are also handed out with a variety of categories that cover a large array of genres and roles.
The first festival ran from June 6th to June 17th in West Berlin. Its Director was a film historian named Dr. Alfred Bauer who held the position until 1976. The festival began with a certain prestige; it was opened by the great Alfred Hitchcock’s new film, Rebecca.
The Berlin Film Festival is a fantastic opportunity for any young filmmaker. The European Film Market is run alongside it; this is a film trade fair which is a major industry assembly point. It serves a wide variety of distribution roles such as film buyers, financiers and co-production agents. It’s also home to the Berlinale Talents which is a weeklong series of workshops and lectures held in partnership with the festival.
These film festivals are an excellent opportunity for anyone lucky enough to go, not only that but they are catalysts for quality in film. It’s not likely that these effect the huge blockbuster movies we see every summer too much but when it comes to more critically successful “highbrow” titles, along with new burgeoning talent, there is absolutely no doubt that we have these festivals, along with the many others across the world to thank.