In May of this year, 25 Stern MBA students, including myself, attended the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival as part of the “Craft and Commerce of Cinema” course in the stunning French Riviera. Professor Al Lieberman led the group along with Professor Paul Hardart, giving us a tour of the famous “Palais” and the festival grounds just moments after landing (what is jetlag?).
Many people think the festival is just for movie premieres, but it is actually a major hub for those in the film industry. The “Marché du Film” attracts buyers, financiers, producers, distributors, and creative talent from all over the world. This year, 50 films were selected to compete for the coveted “Palm d’Or.”
As NYU students, our badges gave us access to all the movies we could get tickets for, the marché, and the “international village.” The village is a section of the festival on the beach, with gorgeous views, where film commissions from different countries host small film screenings, happy hours, and other networking events. The American pavilion at the village had a coffee bar, food, and a breezy outdoor lounge area, perfect for breaks in between movies.
The week-long trip isn’t structured the way other Stern DBIs are. Once we got there, we could pretty much do anything we wanted – there were no requirements as to what films we needed to watch. Some people even chose to skip movies and took mornings or afternoons off to go to the beach or walk around the neighboring towns of Antibes and Nice. Our hotel was in Juan les Pins, a beautiful little beach town just two stops away from the festival by train.
Al and Paul – who, by the way, were ok with us calling them by their first names – hosted several dinners, lunches, and happy hours throughout the week, so we got to touch base with classmates at these gatherings and discuss the films we were watching. Outside of these events we were free to roam the cobbled streets as far as our French would take us. I should mention that even though we got a lot of freedom in France, we had to submit several assignments throughout the semester and a final paper a few weeks after the festival.
I didn’t have much time to research what movies to watch before getting to Cannes, thanks to my finance classes in the Spring, so I ended up walking blindly into some of the screenings. I assumed “Crimes of the Future” would be great because Kristen Stewart was in it – I mean, what could go wrong? Well… I don’t want to spoil it for you but the plot was really “out there” even for someone like me who has covered some wild stories. There were also some gems, I attended the premiere of the Colombian independent film “La Jauria.” The entire cast was there with the director and it was quite incredible to witness the standing ovation in the end. They were all in tears – it was so powerful that some people in the audience started crying too.
As for the best film, “Close”, which ended up winning the Grand Prix award, was my absolute favorite. It was an added bonus that I watched it at the legendary Lumiere auditorium, the main theater at the Palais with 2,000 seats (Yeah, it’s a massive theater). The film was about friendship, love, loss, relationships, resilience, heartbreak… it was beautiful and emotional. Everyone in that theater felt deeply for the young boy in the story, but I don’t want to say too much: you should experience it for yourself when it becomes available in the US. Belgium submitted this film for the Oscars and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get a nomination.
The festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or, ultimately went to “Triangle of Sadness”, a satirical comedy about wealthy people and a pair of influencers from Swedish director Ruben Östlund. If you are up for a laugh, you’ll love this film.
Once the festival was over we had a farewell dinner and parted ways. Most students continued traveling around Europe – the Nice airport nearby made it very easy to connect to other cities and Al was kind enough to give us an extension on the final assignment so we could enjoy a longer trip.
If you are thinking about applying to the program but don’t have a background in media, I suggest you convey what you are looking to get out of this experience. It is competitive so be sure to highlight your love of films. If you get in (congrats!) and your goal is to network with industry professionals, you need to attend the market events, happy hours and talk to everyone. Even though some screenings are open to the public, the Cannes film festival is only for accredited film professionals. The type of access we get as NYU Students is difficult and expensive to get, so take advantage of it.
The application deadline for the 2023 festival has been extended to Friday, November 18th, 2022. For more details on the program go here or email professor Lieberman directly.
If you are going to the festival here are some useful tips:
- Research the movies in advance – it might save you from duds.
- Try to get to know your classmates before the trip.
- Once you know what you want to see, get tickets as soon as they become available.
- Download the festival app on your phone.
- Study the map in advance, the main theaters are at the Palais but some can be far out.
- A lot of streets close near the Palais and security is tight, so give yourself enough time to get to the screenings on time.
- Be punctual. Once the movie starts they won’t let you into the screening.
- If you book a movie and don’t show up, you get penalized. So release the tickets back if you can’t make it.
- The most anticipated films are shown at the Lumiere theater, which is an experience in itself.
- All the films have a standby line, so even if you didn’t get tickets, if you go early and stand in line, you might get in.
- It is generally hard to get tickets for the evening premieres, so keep refreshing your browser and/or be ready to stand in line.
- You have to dress up for the evening red carpet premieres. That’s men in tuxedos and women in gowns.
- The attire for daytime movies and the market is business casual.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Cell service is worth every penny.
- Download the train ticket app and don’t bother with the kiosk, it never works. If you get on the train without a ticket, you can get fined. They check at random.
- The Moscow mule at the Majestic hotel is unreal.
- Have fun, seriously.