Cannes Day 1: Thousands flock to the world's premier film festival

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 5:50pm

Day 1

“What a place” doesn’t even come close.

My first morning at Cannes begins quite early (3:15 a.m., to be exact), in London, as I make my way to the airport. With nothing but extensive google searches to arm myself, I get on a Nice bound flight with a heavy bag of dreams, a laptop, three books and my passport. The painfully early 7:30 a.m. flight is far from sleepy. On the contrary, it’s full of international industry chatter; reporters planning their interviews by the bathrooms; producers catching up with friends over seatbacks; cinephiles eagerly listening to whatever dish they could hear. Business cards, I quickly learn, are currency in Cannes. People hand them out like candy here, hopeful that they’re making a sweet connection.

It’s now 10:15 a.m. Touchdown in Nice, and the game is afoot. I’m lucky enough to meet a Swiss film journalist, my “Cannes angel,” who offers to show me the ropes of the festival. This is his 5th time going (score!). Upon arrival from Nice, my Cannes angel Christoph and I collect our badges at the Palais du Festival. He explains that there’s a hierarchy of badge colors, ranging from tourist to Pedro Almodovar (President of the Grand Jury) himself. We’re both yellow, which is the lowest on the press totem pole. But any accreditation in Cannes is worth gold, so we’re fine. Queues are fun, right?

After we collect our badges, I head to my Airbnb and promptly pass out. Two hours later, I meet back up with Christoph, revived and ready for my first screening of the festival: Les Fantomes d’Ismael (Ismael’s Ghosts). The festival opener has the star-power of Marion Cotillard as its lead, but unfortunately that’s about all the film has. You can read the full review here once it’s posted.

Despite a disappointing first film, the magic of Cannes is hardly lessened. In fact, a tour of the Press Lounge — where I discover coffee is free all day, every day — only makes it more exciting.

It’s now 7:06 p.m. in Cannes. I’m sitting on the terrace outside the Palais red carpet watching as the stars arrive. It’s a flurry of glamorous women, tuxedoed men, loud music and screaming fans. The view from the peanut gallery could be better — I’ve only seen the backsides of Will and Jada Smith, Jessica Chastain and Marion Cotillard — but boy oh boy, do they have nice backs.

There’s an excitement in the air that’s hard to define. Cannes is a small beach town that, for two weeks, is overrun by tourists, journalists, actors, producers, writers, the works. It’s jam packed with people, and everyone wants something from someone else. It’s hot and sweaty. And it’s so, so special.  Everyone, no matter their badge color or the price tag on their dress, shares something in common: a love of the business. Day one isn’t even over and already I can tell — this is going to be crazy.