A look into the world’s most prestigious film festival: Cannes

Max Miranda, Senior A&E Editor

Most Americans pay attention to the Academy Awards, for all of the stars and glamour.  However, many Americans ignore an event that features even more stars and more glamour: the Cannes Film Festival.

Held annually in Cannes, France, the festival features the most famous movie stars, from everywhere from  the Czech Republic to Japan.

Despite the quality of stars at the world’s most prestigious film gathering, the Cannes Film Festival chooses to emphasize the accomplishments of directors.  If typical Americans were to be in attendance, they would be astonished by the number of discussions held about cinematography.

However, one particular New Yorker was not at all surprised to hear any of these conversations, considering that he was the director they were all abuzz about. Bennett Miller, who grew up in Westchester County, New York, won the Best Director award at the festival for his work on the film Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum.

Foxcatcher is the true story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and how his mentor, a paranoid schizophrenic, ends up murdering his brother, David Schultz.  The movie lasts for 130 minutes, yet there are only six actors involved in the entire film.

His award marked one of the first times in the festival’s history that a director won the Best Director award for his very first Cannes submission.  In fact, it is only Miller’s fourth film.

These are the kind of odd, small-budget films that proceed into the world spotlight at the Cannes Film Festival. However, these kinds of movies are not always successful.

The film Grace of Monaco, starring actresses Nicole Kidman and Paz Vega, has been thoroughly ripped apart by festival juries, as well as by the media.  In addition to the fact that the movie went home without an award, it also went home with a nine percent Rotten Tomatoes ranking and a 21 percent on Metascore.  The laughably mediocre film was especially reviled because Cannes selected it as its opening flick.

“Grace of Monaco had its world premiere at the opening night of the 67th Cannes Festival, although earlier it played to an audience of international critics, who even by the end of the first scene had started curling up, like startled armadillos, into tight little balls of embarrassment,” said Telegraph movie critic Robbie Collin.

Festival awards are given out by juries of approximately ten people, who are selected based on their accolades by the board of the film festival.  The juries are usually mostly actors.  However, this depends on the award.

The greatest honor awarded in Cannes is the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm), which this year went to the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his film, Winter Sleep.American actress Uma Thurman and American director Quentin Tarantino presented Ceylan with the prestigious award.  The film was over three hours long, but garnered the acclaim of the majority of festival-goers.

“I was scared.  I said, ‘I’m going to need a toilet break,’ But it took me in, it was masterful and ruthless,” said president of the Palme d’Or jury Jane Campion to FOX411.

Jane Campion happens to be the first female filmmaker in history to have received the Palme d’Or.

Upon winning the award, Ceylan dedicated it to the young people of Turkey and the civil unrest that is currently taking place there.  During the festival, 301 miners were killed in the Turkish town of Soma, and many blame the government’s lack of safety provisions.

The Cannes Film Festival does more than foreshadow the upcoming awards season. It unifies the world while putting the best of each country head-to-head.  The fact that the festival’s highest honor has gone to 22 different countries is as good an indicator as any that the Cannes Film Festival is an extremely rare and diverse but extremely significant event.