2021 Cannes Film Festival | A diary at the time of Covid-19

Posted on 15 July, 2021

“Covid is still there, but it’s a huge sense of relief and excitement” stated Adam Driver at the opening premiere for Leos Carax’s Annette, the most anticipated movie of the Cannes Film Festival selection, in which he starred alongside Marion Cotillard. His quote effectively sums up the mood of the whole festival: a much-awaited event that was finally able to bring hope and lightness to the world of cinema. 

But if you think the festival is all about glamorous gowns, exclusive interviews, photos, and autographs think again. When you turn your head on the other side of the red carpet, after a wall of photographers in tuxes and bowties, there’s a hoard of cinephiles waiting to access the Grand Théatre Lumière, sweating under the summer sun trying not to suffocate with their masks on. 

Cinéma de la plage – Mathilde Petit / FDC

Mixed-mode events and no-kissing rule

Covid drastically changed the face of the festival, forcing the organization to adapt to anti-epidemic measures, meaning far fewer participants, no queues (except for the last-minute ones, life-saving options for the most requested screenings), and online ticketing.

After both Bafta and Academy Awards opted for a mixed-mode event, the Festival took place in person, showing that the French government trusts vaccinations and mass-testing methods over the fear of a “Cannes cluster.” Nothing to worry about as the organization took all precautions. As Thierry Frémaux said, “the epidemic is not yet beaten, so it’s going to be important that we show that we are responsible, reasonable, and joyous,” also introducing a strict no-kissing rule on the red carpet (don’t tell him Pierre Lescure, the festival president, broke the rules more than once with Melanie Laurent and Carla Bruni).

The famous Montée des marches – Mathilde Petit / FDC

The challenge of getting the right ticket

Since the Festival priory granted the “three days pass” to those waitlisted for the 2020 suppressed edition, few applicants had the privilege this year to attend the festival and its backlog Official Selection. But from day one it was pretty clear that, despite the limited number of people, social distancing was not possible in any way. Theaters are at total capacity and before every screening showing your Green Pass is mandatory: on location, free antigen tests are provided for all. Even for the stars: meeting Thimothée Chalamet in the testing tent and filling the test tube with saliva could be pretty strange but after all possible.

The stars: Adam Driver – FDC

In addition, the chances of getting online tickets for the preferred screenings (the personal account page on the event’s website has to be refreshed a dozen times every morning at 7:00 sharp – it’s like trying to get a special pass for a Lady Gaga concert), are based on a randomly assigned system which gives the exciting thrill of not knowing what movie one will actually be able to see each day. The system says the viewer will receive notification up to two hours before the screening, and this applies to Premiers, too. The most reckless bring a pair of classy heels and a long dress in the branded tote bag, in case they need to change while waiting in line.

The adventure of Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival is an adventure; this is totally part of the experience. But the main drawback of this edition was the decision to extend exceptionally the duration of the 3 days pass for the first session (6th, 7th, and 8th of July) to the whole festival. Though this extra time may sound like a beautiful gift, for those attending the second session, it meant only one thing: more people after the same number of tickets.

The advice was to wisely choose a companion and get into group chats where to exchange the Korean action movie matinée for the midnight French documentary. That’s the actual competition, especially with movies like Annette and The French Dispatch, whose reruns availability is always pending.

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