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Slummin' it in Cannes: Even My Trailer Has a Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi"

Posted: 05/25/2012 8:35 am

This lifestyle feels very sustainable: non-stop film screenings, drinks and dinners, interesting people, and inspiring conversations. I ban any words resembling a complaint from leaving my lips. Although I admit I cursed the weather over the weekend. Saturday through Tuesday, it rained and poured, and rained some more.

It is nice to wake and sleep to raindrops on my trailer's tin roof, but not thrilling to wear soaking wet shoes and get stuck in mud puddles. For three days, my feet were freezing and my only jacket never dried. I waited in long lines for screenings under canopies of umbrellas that poked me in the eye and stuck in my hair -- but, like I said, I did not complain because, well, I am in Cannes, and because I was with fantastic people and saw two great films.

French director Ingrid Chikhaoui, who I worked with on Unfold, arrived Saturday. Together, we attended the premiere for Haneke's Amour and Vinterberg's Jagten (The Hunt). Both films left us speechless and in tears. Amour is a masterpiece. Simple and beautiful, it follows an elderly couple's relationship as the wife slowly dies in their apartment. It is hard to watch and confronts harsh realities many people do not want to talk about or see. A heavy film with so much heart, it is devastating. Please see it.

We took our second emotional rollercoaster just a few hours later, after a French dinner of mussels and French Fries (which are, actually, way better in France). Jagten tells the story of a kindergarten teacher accused of child abuse and the ensuing destruction of his life, as he knew it. The screenplay and cinematography are impeccable, and the lead performance is heartbreaking. The entire 2,200-person theatre gave a 10-minute standing ovation for the cast and crew in attendance. I am very grateful to experience such great art in the presence of its creators -- quite electrifying!

On Monday, Abigail's director, Matthew James Reilly, and cameraman, Taylor DeLuca, arrived. First stop, a screening of Roman Polanski's Tess...with Roman Polanski. Polanski and the film's crew were in attendance and spoke to the audience prior to its screening. Again, watching the epic narrative with its creators in the room was a surreal experience. As a small surprise, the film opened with a clever Prada commercial, directed by Polanski and starring Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonhome Carter. If possible, YouTube it.

After the film, we had an international exchange dinner: the four wonderful Brits, Ingrid, Canadian Claire, the Abigail team, and two other new friends from the campground, Sven from Germany, and Enës from Turkey. Again, I felt embarrassingly lucky.

Unfortunately, we fell into a tourist trap restaurant and overpaid (our fault: big British flags on the menu is a red flag) but enjoyed the meal regardless. National stereotypes were vocally confirmed or debunked. Sven told stories about his grandmother during the war, hiding food in the ground and herself in a farm silo. He then expressed concern he may be perpetuating the "depressing German" stereotype. However, he agreed with Enës' assertion that Germans are incapable of romance. Together, they plan to write and direct two films: one about Sven's grandmother, and another, about a romantic German outcast from his community, because he is a romantic. I love it.

On Tuesday, Matt and I spent time exploring the marketplace. I had no idea. I really had no idea about what an international "marketplace" this is. We wandered through multiple floors of hundreds of booths of different distribution, production, marketing etc. Companies looking to buy and sell films. There are over 4,000 films, short and feature length, for sale, and around 700 that are screened for prospective buyers throughout the festival. I spent the following day at the beach reading all the daily Cannes publications, learning the facts I just stated. The marketplace experience and publications have peaked my interest in emerging film markets, like Egypt, or those making a comeback, like Italy. The international nature of this film festival has finally sunk in, and I think I am in love. Finally, my dual degree in International Development and Drama makes sense. Dear TIFF, could you let an American short into your festival, just this once? Or if not, then just me?

As for my trailer, it was a celebrated destination during the storms by campground friends staying in tents, and by me. Unlike rainy and cold-to-the-bone camping days in Canada, I could take, and not just dream about, a hot shower. Slummin' it in Cannes means I put plastic bags around my heels to walk through muddied trails, but if it means I walk from that mud to the red carpet, that's all right with me.

 

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