Cannes Film Festival: A Guide for Newbies cover

Cannes Film Festival: A Guide for Newbies


Refer to Cannes, the town, and people will often assume you're headed to the film fest. Typically called the "Cannes Film Festival" in English, the official French name is actually le Festival de Cannes. Seem like an insider and not a newbie by pronouncing the town like the word "can" (yes, a can of soda) instead of "cans" (plural) or "kahns".

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Cannes Film Festival: A Guide for Newbies

History of the Cannes Film Festival

The first iteration of the Cannes Film Festival was set to be held from September 1 through 30, 1939, but the start of World War II ended the first edition of the festival before it even began.

The fest officially began in 1946 at the Old Casino of Cannes. By the second year, films from 16 different countries were presented and judged by an international jury. It wasn't until 1955 that the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), the festival's highest award, was created. In 1959, the Film Market began, marking the festival as a platform for international film commerce.

A Star-studded Event

A Star-studded Event

Image by Cali4beach.

(CC BY 2.0)


In the next few decades, the judging boards made numerous changes to the way that films are entered and judged.

In 1983, the Palais de Festivals ed des Congres was built to host the festival, although numerous structures were used previously to house the film screenings. The Festival's current President, Gilles Jacob, was appointed in 2000, and in 2002 the Festival officially adopted the name Festival de Cannes.

Fun Facts

Here are some unique facts about the Cannes Film Festival:

The highest award given out each year is the Palme d'Or, or Golden Palm.

The President of the jury this year is actor Robert De Niro. Last year it was director Tim Burton.

The festival was not held in 1948 or 1950.

All of the films shown in the official program are preceded by the Festival de Cannes trailer. The track used on this trailer is called "The Aquarium" and it comes from a classical work called "The Carnival of Animals", written in 1886 by French composer Camille Saint-Saens.

The first weekend of the festival is generally considered the busiest and the best time to spot celebrity attendees.

The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet

Presentation of the film Basic Instinct at the Cannes film festival.

Left from right : stars Jeanne Tripplehorn and Michael Douglas, Paul Verhoeven's wife Martine Tours, director Paul Verhoeven, star Sharon Stone and producer Mario Kassar

Image by Georges Biard

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

What to Wear

It's time to bust out the best duds. The evening dress code for the Cannes Film Festival is totally black tie fabulous, and, judging by the number of celebrities in attendance, oversized ice and jewels will be de rigeur.

By day, business casual or casual chic is typically accepted, as many opt to sunbathe on the massive yachts docked near the harbor or enjoy casual jaunts around town when not attending the film events.


Expect the warm and sunny weather that the French Riviera is known for, with temperatures often reaching into the mid-to-upper 70s.

At night, you'll expect considerably lower temperatures (and necklines, as the dress code for evening is 100% black tie).



Vieux-port de Cannes, coin des pêcheurs

Image by Guy Lebègue

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

How to Nab Tickets

There are six types of accreditation for the festival, each with different criterion and fees associated. For most, you need to be a member of the press or related to the film industry.

Aside from screenings at the Cinema de la Plage (beach cinema) which are open on a first come, first served basis, and a limited number of tickets for the Director's Fortnight, there is no access to festival screenings for members of the general public.