05/19/2012 04:31 EDT | Updated 07/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Slummin' it at the Cannes Film Festival: My Turn to Walk the Red Carpet


Ashley Peoples is a Brooklyn-born Toronto-raised actress who recently starred in Abigail, a film that is a finalist for The Cinéfondation Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival 2012. She will be chronicling her time at festival for Huffington Post Canada.

Festival adventures are underway. There is a lot going on, everywhere, all the time, and it is a bit overwhelming! On my first day of adventuring, I did not know what to expect, but I wanted to be prepared. I put on my four inch purchased-for-the-red carpet heels, a mid-length dress and full make-up to pick up my accreditation pass. Yes, I was trying way too hard. Others in line to get their passes were sporting sneakers, jeans and backpacks. It only became more ridiculous when I wore the exact same outfit to a red-carpet world premiere the following night.

Thanks to the lovely people working at Cinéfondation (the office dedicated to the prize the film I star in, Abigail, is nominated for), I have access to most of the official feature premieres that are by invitation only. Bon chance!

Unluckily, I did not tell them I would be here for opening night and it was too late to get a ticket to the opening ceremony, followed by the premiere of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. So instead, I decided to join the paparazzi. Armed with my iPhone camera, I took up my place on Palais Festival's terrace -- the Festival's central building.

From here, I could see small bejeweled figures posing and slinking along the carpet to loud club music. An announcer declared the names of celebrities as they exited their cars at the end of the carpet and greeted fans. The official photographers were dressed in tuxedoes and called out demands like, "Move your hair," or compliments such as "Beautiful, " or just, "I love you." In a way, it felt like a glamorous American football game.

An interesting discovery I made on the terrace was the paparazzi don't usually know who they're taking photos of. They just hope it is someone famous and figure it out later. Some set their cameras on autopilot, and take the time to have a smoke and a chat while their cameras click away.

The final crew to walk the carpet was the cast of Moonrise Kingdom. Bill Murray danced and Ed Norton spent a lot of time looking for someone. They seemed to have a lot more fun, and were less concerned with their poses than earlier, relatively unknown, carpet walkers. Oh the freedom of success.

My turn to strut my stuff on "le tapis rouge" came sooner than expected, and not at all how I expected. Cinéfondation gave me a ticket to the first screening of De Rouille et D'Os (Rust and Bone), directed by Jacques Audiard.

I now know that the first screening of many films at Cannes are for the press, at 8:30 a.m. So, the next morning at 7:30 a.m., I waited my turn to walk the red carpet for the first time, barely awake, in jeans, sandals and a blazer -- and it was totally worth it. The film is absolutely beautiful and crushing. I highly recommend it. Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, who play the film's central characters, give soulful and honest performances. Cotillard, especially, carried me right inside her gut-wrenching journey to re-create her life, and herself, after a tragic accident.

Coming out into the sun after an emotional pre-breakfast experience, I ran into Claire Stollery and Maital Folkovitz, who both went to Queen's University with me! Claire is a Canadian actress and comedian and Maital works for the Canadian Film Centre. They are here promoting a short film they made together.

I was thrilled to see them and we arranged to have dinner that evening before going to the premiere of Baad el Mawkeaa (After the Battle), an Egyptian film directed by Yousry Nasrallah. It was wonderful to see a film like this in such a beautiful (and comfortable) theatre. The Grand Théâtre Lumière seats 2000 people and even the "nose bleeds" (our seats) provide an excellent view.

Even better, the seats are pink. Because it was an evening premiere (and not the a.m. press screening), it was a proper red carpet posing event. We practiced our best on the stairs -- the only part we were allowed to walk because of our plebian status -- and danced to the music.

Once inside, we realized our performance was live broadcast on the theatre screen. Brilliant, but we were then entertained by watching everyone else do their best, followed by the film's cast and director.

I say it was wonderful to see a film like this in such a theatre because I do not know if it will play in commercial theatres in Canada or the U.S. The film addresses the plight of a family after the father falls from his horse and is beaten at the Battle of Tahir, and their relationship with a woman who attempts to help them.

It was an inspiring experience to watch a moving and well-acted drama based in contemporary, on-going events. After watching this film, I want to make a point of seeing other foreign films I might not have the chance to see in North America. That's what has happened so far! (Oh, and I did fall down the campground stairs in my heels, but they didn't break).