The 2017 Cannes Film Festival is leaving behind some outdated traditions and welcoming some new ones. While there has been protest against the changes on display at the upcoming festival—primarily the inclusion of non-theatrical releases produced and to be distributed by Netflix and the growing prominence of virtual reality—many of us are excited about the broadening outlook of the most lauded international film festival. These are the three main ways this year’s Cannes sets it apart from those of the past, bringing the festival closer to the present cultural moment.
Way behind most prominent film festivals, Cannes has now introduced television to its lineup. Naturally, it’s chosen two series that promise to be nothing less than visually stunning and narratively imaginative: “Twin Peaks” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl.”
Filmmakers turning to television have grown in number over the last decade, but David Lynch did it long ago, when he created the TV series “Twin Peaks” back in 1990, after the success of his film “Blue Velvet.” This extraordinary and radically eccentric show, which lasted three seasons, preempted our current moment of TV breaking conventions held onto by American cinema. “Twin Peaks” is now getting a highly anticipated reboot on Showtime, with all the surviving cast members returning plus newcomers, and Cannes will be screening the world premiere of its pilot.
Another Cannes winner, Jane Campion (for “The Piano” in 1993) will be premiering the second season of her beautiful series “Top of the Lake” (codirected with Ariel Kleiman). The BBC and Sundance Channel show picks up several years after the first season, with Elisabeth Moss’s Robin Griffin back in the lead, with new supporting roles from the great (and ubiquitous) Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie (of “Game of Thrones” fame). Campion is the only woman filmmaker to ever win the Palme d’Or, so it’s no surprise Cannes is opening its doors to television with her returning series.
Cannes is also for the first time screening films produced by Amazon (“Wonderstruck”) and Netflix (“Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories”), to be streamed on those services. However, while this has opened the possibilities for films to be considered for Cannes, it has also angered more traditional folk who believe festival films should all receive local theatrical releases.
While Cannes is standing by those premieres, it recently released a statement with a certain rule change claiming all films must now be released in French theaters to compete at Cannes. It reads: “The Festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and in the world,” the festival said. “Consequently, and after consulting its Members of the Board, the Festival de Cannes has decided to adapt its rules to this unseen situation until now: any film that wishes to compete in Competition at Cannes will have to commit itself to being distributed in French movie theaters. This new measure will apply from the 2018 edition of the Festival International du Film de Cannes onwards.” So, while Netflix and Amazon are being let in this time around, they have more obstacles to face in coming years.
Finally, Cannes has, for the first time, an Official Selection virtual reality film screening in competition. Oscar winning filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki will be debuting their experimental six and a half minute virtual reality installation “CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible).”
The film offers viewers an intimate immersion into the experiences of immigrants and refugees; Iñárritu explains, “My intention was to experiment with VR technology to explore the human condition in an attempt to break the dictatorship of the frame—within which things are just observed—and claim the space to allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts.”
These updates to the Cannes Film Festival makeup are clearly necessary and giving way to more exciting and innovative projects.
Photo Credit: Netflix