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‘Cannes is a casino, the best and worst place to show a film’

A man works in front of Palais des Festivals, under the official poster of the 70th Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2017 on the facade of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, southeastern France. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP

The Cannes film festival — the world’s greatest movie showcase — celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

AFP asked actors and directors who made their names at the festival to recount their highs and lows of the star-studded event.

– Claude Lelouch –

French director Claude Lelouch first attended Cannes in 1959, arriving directly from a military base while on leave. He was denied entry for wearing a uniform and had to sneak in through an emergency exit. He says he picked the right film to see, Marcel Camus’ “Black Orpheus”, which won the Palme d’Or that year.


But his best memory is of winning the Palme d’Or in 1966 for “A Man and A Woman”.

“Cannes is the most beautiful place in the world, and the worst, too, for showing a film,” he says. “It’s like a casino: you win or you lose.”

“There is no halfway with Cannes. I’ve known the worst and the best there, I know what I’m talking about,” he added. “Today, all the great directors dream of presenting a film. It’s not for nothing it’s the biggest festival in the world.”

– Mahamat-Saleh Haroun –

Twenty years ago, Chadian film director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun spent 11 hours on a train from the French southwest city of Bordeaux to get his first taste of Cannes. It was May 1997 and he only had one night.

He was able to get an invite to a screening by Abbas Kiarostami, the Iranian film director, and enter the Grand Theatre Lumiere.

“You have the feeling of walking in slow motion, as if time was standing still,” he said. “The vastness of the hall. To reach my seat, on the last row, I needed to climb the endless staircase”.

Once seated, about 20 metres (65 feet) off the ground, Haroun turned his head and was struck with “vertigo” and “nausea,” but as soon as the lights went off, “I forgot everything.”

Haroun won the Jury Prize in 2010 for “A Screaming Man,” and his first reaction was to raise his head to those sitting in the nosebleed seats.

“I wanted to believe that among them was a young director watching the show with his head full of dreams”.

– Brillante Mendoza –

Filipino director Brillante Mendoza has many happy memories from Cannes: The first time he trod the red carpet in 2008 when his movie “Serbis” competed for the Palme d’Or or his victory as best director in 2009 for “Kinatay”.

But his favourite memory is still his first appearance at Cannes in 2007 when his movie, “Foster Child” was screened at the Director’s Fortnight.

“The mere fact that they chose me was already overwhelming because at the time, there were only three Filipino (directors) who made it to Cannes and it had been almost 20 years since the last one,” he told AFP.

“I didn’t realise after the screening there would be a standing ovation. I could not believe it. I was a bit embarrassed. I had to stand up and then sit down but every time I sat down, the clapping became louder.”

“I got a bit emotional, I cried. I couldn’t believe what was happening. After that, it took me a long time to control my emotions,” he said.


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CannesClaude Lelouch


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