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Weird and Wonderful Cannes
by Vesa Kuosmanen
2008-05-31 09:44:42
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As a film student I was all excited when arriving in the 61st Festival de Cannes. Eyes open for Natalie Portman and many more Hollywood stars; I eagerly went to get my Cannes badge. Feeling almost famous myself, nothing like the ’normal people’ on the other side of the fences, trying to catch a glimpse of us inside. You never know, it might be somebody famous. However, I think my professional looks were harmed when I wanted my photo taken with the girls giving out freebies; next time I need to remember that people should want their photo taken with me, not the other way around.

All at once, I was an emerging filmmaking talent, as I proudly introduced myself to anybody who cared to listen. Although discussing with people in Cannes is not the most pleasant business, as everybody seemed to be glancing over your head trying to catch a glimpse of somebody more useful for them. Where has the good old eye contact gone? However, does it really matter whether people look you in the eyes or not, if they spent 22 million dollars on their latest film, as the first person I met casually told me. I did not mention that my last short film cost £1500. Bit worryingly though, the producer was not able to tell what the film is about, whereas I could go on hours about my five minute short film, my apologies to all who have gone through that. But who cares what the film is about, if it cost 22 millions plus has guns and tits.

Buzzed about being in the biggest film festival in the world, I was keen to find out what films people have seen so far. Strangely enough, it seemed like nobody cared. However, many regular Cannes visitors proudly told that they have not seen a single film in 25 years they have been here. Real cinema lovers indeed. Soon I realised why they do not go and see films; everybody was busy having meetings, running from one to another. I joined the game and went from person to person telling how great I am and how wonderful my ideas are, begging for money. Soon enough I realised that the only one I am bullshitting was myself, and nobody was interested. In addition, I realised what filmmaking means to me and that I could never work with these people to whom cinema only equals money.

Time for some films then. The first premier I got myself into, after long queuing, was Tokyo, three 40 minute shorts forming one feature. One of the shorts was directed by Michelle Gondry, and you can believe I was thrilled when he stepped on stage to introduce the film. The lady sitting next to me did not seem to be anyhow excited, only annoyed by me jumping up and down. Luckily smaller cinemas are more accessible and you can just wander in to see films. Annoyingly the film distributors, who are there to buy films that they think could make profit, run out of cinema after five minutes, already made up their minds. Before I had even chance to open my bag of sweets. Now I understand why you need pack the opening of your film with all the action and sex possible.

Naturally I wanted to know how Finnish films are presented in Cannes, therefore made my way to Scandinavian apartment, where Finnish Film Institute had their own desk. I found out that there are quite a few Finnish titles screened in there, and the new film by AJ Annila, Sauna (could there be a more Finnish title) had its own apartment with Iron Sky, the new film from the makers of Star Wreck. When checking out the apartment, first things I found in my hand were cold Finnish beer and salmiakki. The place to be!

During the time I spend there did not hear a word about money, but the filmmakers were happy to explain why they wanted to make the film and different techniques they used to get the feeling they wanted. Finally somebody who seemed to care about what they are doing. After seeing the amazing trailer for Sauna and the market screening of Aku Louhimies’s interesting new film Käsky (Tear’s of April), I was happy to be Finnish wannabe filmmaker, rather than European emerging filmmaking talent.

After al the buzz and hype around Cannes, I realised that the best place there was in outdoors cinema sipping your beer and watching a good film. Next year I know that the thing to do in the weird and wonderful Cannes is to enjoy the free ice cream and see as many films as possible. And run away when you hear the word money. That is how you can meet the people who really care about cinema. Maybe even Natalie Portman.

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