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The History of Cannes

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By Moses Navgire, IndiaFM

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cannes. The immediate image that comes to ones mind on reading this word is that of the International Film Festival hosted by the place. The name has become so synonymous with the film festival that many people aren't even aware that Cannes is the name of a small town in France. The Cannes Film Festival hosted in the resort town of France has gained enormous popularity world over. Started with the aim "to encourage the development of all forms of cinematographic art and foster a spirit of collaboration between film-producing countries" by the French, the festival was started in 1932 and was held at Venice. However, World War II broke out and it was considered a failure. It was again revived in 1946 and conducted in the city of Cannes. Since then the festival has continued and flourished over the years. The film makers from all over the world today consider it to be a great honor if their films get selected for screening at this fest. The genuine appreciation of creative work at Cannes has given it a lot of "credibility" and added "leverage" to the festival.

After its re-launch in 1946, the film makers from all over the world started attending the fest that is held in the month of May every year. Films from every corner of the world started reaching Cannes making their presence felt. When so much was going on at Cannes, how can the biggest film making industry, the Indian Film Industry could stay away from the action? As a matter fact, Indian films were associated with Cannes festival from its early days. Some of the initial entries from India include films like V. Shantaram's Amar Bhoopali, Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (it won Prix Internationale in 1954), Raj Kapoor's Awara, the Kapoor-produced Boot Polish (which won a special award for child actress Baby Naaz). All these films were played on the Cannes screen from 1951 onwards. The Indian film industry thus went on to declare that India is a newly independent country which is making the kind of cinema which deserves recognition and appreciation from the world. In 1956, Satyajit Ray's masterpiece Pather Panchali was screened at Cannes. The film not only displayed the immense potential the Indian film industry held but also won the top prize at Cannes that year. After Pather Panchali however, Indian films seemed to go astray from the Cannes International Film Festival. However, some regional films like a Malayalam film Swaham (1994) and another film called Marana Simhasam (1999) happened to be the last entries into 'the Competition' at Cannes. But there wasn't much sound about Indian Cinema at Cannes until Sanjay Leela Bansali's Devdas was screened at Cannes in 2002. Devdas was the first ever "popular" "commercial" Indian film to be screened at Cannes. The movie was selected for "out of the competition" screening, a special category in the Cannes Film Festival that allows screening films which though didn't make it into the official competition, they had the potential and artistic value to be screened with equal respect at the festival. Devdas was a very vibrant colorful movie which had romance, music, dance and drama backed by mammoth sets that had Indian aesthetic designs.

Devdas set off the spark for the Indian Film Industry to associate itself with the Cannes Film festival. But this time it wasn't just for sake of competing with other films at Cannes. One of the unique aspects of the Cannes International Film Festival is the strong platform that it offers to sell films in the International market. Apart from the various structural features of the festival like competition, display of creativity and its appreciation and offering freedom of speech to the medium of films, the official program structure of the Cannes International Film Festival also includes 'Marche du Film', which literally means 'the film market'. It is the largest event of its kind in the world. The main purpose of this event is trading in terms of buying and selling of the films. It is very much like a tradeshow where the producers set up their own booths and exhibit their films to the potential buyers i.e. distributors of other countries. Thus, the producers can sell their films in overseas markets. Though setting up a booth does not necessarily guarantee that the films will be purchased by international buyers, it definitely provides visibility to the films and an opportunity for film producers and distributors to expand their market. This is something that has strongly attracted Indian film makers and producers. They realize the potential that Cannes has for helping them reach places which earlier weren't strong markets for Indian films but now seem to be good prospects. Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of globalization has also touched the Indian film industry which is now looking at making its presence felt worldwide and in turn, do better business. In 2002, while Devdas was premiered at Cannes, another film Bhagmati -- The Queen of Fortunes which is India's first animation film that also starred Tabu and Milind Soman along side the animated characters, had its stall set up in 'the film market' event. Not many Indian films were present at Cannes then.

Over the past few years however, the number of Indian films going to Cannes for commercial purpose of finding new markets has radically increased. Also, the film makers look at the festival as an opportunity to set up collaboration projects with the film makers and technicians from other countries. From the past couple of years, many big production houses have taken their films to Cannes for international selling and this year is going to be no different. In fact, this year will see some of the biggest films of Bollywood making their way to festival. Films like UTV's Rang De Basanti, Jagmohan Mundra's Provoked, Salman Khan starrer Marigold, Sudipto Sen's The Last Monk, Rajat Kapur's Mixed Doubles and Santosh Sivan's Navarasa will have market screenings at Cannes. Besides, Vishal Bhardawaj will take his film Omkara to Cannes. The star cast of the film which includes Saif Ali Khan, Ajay Devgan, Viveik Oberoi and Bipasha Basu will also be present at the event. And of course Karan Johar will be landing at Cannes with Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Preity Zinta who stars in the film will accompany Karan to Cannes in promoting the film. Besides this, 35 regional film makers have got together this year and will try to sell their films at the Cannes market. The list includes films like Rajnikanth's Tamil blockbuster Chandramukhi and director Mani Ratnam's Lajo.

Courtesy the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), nearly 65 Indian films will be screened at Cannes this year. Apart from that, nearly 35 new projects will be exhibited. Film and TV Guild of India, Film Federation of India, Indian Film Exporters Association and South Indian Film Exporters Association are also part of the India Pavilion set up by CII. Some of the companies and production houses that will be having representations at Cannes this year are Adlabs Films, Kaleidoscope Entertainment, AP international (biggest exporter of South Indian Movies), Sahara One Motion Pictures, EROS Multimedia, NFDC, Celluloid Dreams, iDreams Productions, IFFI and Goa Film Bazaar and Shemaroo.

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