“Following the French President’s statement, on Monday, April 13th, we acknowledged that the postponement of the 73rd International Cannes Film Festival, initially considered for the end of June to the beginning of July, is no longer an option,” the festival said on Tuesday. “It is clearly difficult to assume that the Festival de Cannes could be held this year in its original form.”
“Nevertheless, since yesterday evening we have started many discussions with professionals, in France and abroad,” they added. “They agree that the Festival de Cannes, an essential pillar for the film industry, must explore all contingencies allowing to support the year of Cinema by making Cannes 2020 real, in a way or another.”
Since announcing on March 19 that the 2020 edition would not be held in May, the festival was moving forward with a tentative plan to postpone the event until the end of June through the beginning of July.
But the continued rise of casualties linked to COVID-19 in France and the rest of the world has made it impossible to move ahead with a summer event. France President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised interview on Monday evening that festivals would be banned in the country until mid-July. Festival director Thierry Frémaux, meanwhile, told Variety last week that turning the festival into a virtual event “wouldn’t work.”
One possible scenario would see Cannes being pushed to the fall. That timeframe, however, could be problematic because September is already packed with the Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian film festivals; while in October, Mipcom is already scheduled to take place in the city of Cannes for three days until Oct. 15. It would take about a month for the festival to be put together in the French Riviera town.
Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight, which run parallel to the festival, have yet to make announcements about their respective editions. The Cannes Film Market, expected to run alongside the festival as it always does, also has to decide whether it will take place this year as a digital event in mid-June/late July.
Since its first edition after World War II in 1946, the Cannes Film Festival has only been canceled once in 1968 during the nationwide student riots, in which French New Wave icons François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard also took part.
For the worldwide film community, the cancellation of the Cannes Festival would undoubtedly have a far-reaching impact, especially for sales agents and distributors for which the Cannes film market is the year’s key event for dealmaking. Last year’s film market reported a record 12,527 participants.
Besides its importance to filmmakers, producers, distributors, and sales and talent agents, Cannes also plays a crucial role in positioning foreign-language movies commercially, as well as in the festival circuit and in major awards ceremonies, including Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, the European Film Awards, Spain’s Goya Awards and France’s Cesar Awards, among others. Last year, for instance, three of the five foreign-language films nominated in the international feature film category at the Oscars world premiered at Cannes. “Parasite” went on to win four Academy Awards and made history as the first foreign-language film to nab best picture.