Despite the blockbuster success of Avengers: Endgame, box office scores have been on the decline in recent years. While some say that streaming services such as Netflix will play a role in the decline of the film industry, others have lauded the streaming service for the ways it’s allowed the industry to adapt to changing consumer trends. While some film festivals have embraced these changes, one festival in particular remains steadfast in its devotion to tradition.
The Cannes Film Festival is currently underway in France for its 70th edition. However, what has long been regarded as the world’s most prestigious film festival is now being disregarded by critics and fans alike for its refusal to adapt to modern times.
It certainly doesn’t help that the festival has faced its fair share of controversy in recent years. Last year’s edition was the first following allegations made against film mogul Harvey Weinstein. At last years closing ceremony, actor and director Asia Argento revealed that she had been assaulted by Weinstein at the festival in 1997 when she was just 21 years old. She claimed the festival had been his “hunting ground” for years and accused many of the elite industry members in attendance of being complicit in Weinstein’s attacks.
Similarly, last year’s festival saw 82 women stage a protest on the red carpet, with 82 representing the number of female directors who have been nominated for prizes at the festival throughout its 70-year run. This number pales in comparison to the more than 1,600 male directors who have been in contention for the festival’s top prizes over the years. Elsewhere on the red carpet, actress Kristen Stewart removed her high heels to protest against the festival’s strict dress codes for females, which has long been seen as an outdated way to police the appearance of female guests.
2018 was certainly a year of controversy and reckoning for the festival in the wake of the #MeToo movement. So then, what has changed in 2019?
Organizers for the festival have introduced new measures this year to make the event more family-friendly. The initiative, referred to as “Le Ballon Rouge” — in reference to the children’s film by Albert Lamorisse — brings the implementation of breast-feeding and baby changing areas throughout the festival grounds as well as a dedicated kids’ pavillion and a new accreditation process that provides two additional badges for a baby and its nanny.
While organizers have introduced these measures in an effort to modernize the festival, guests have criticized the efforts as impractical gimmicks. This rings especially true given the fact that the festival will be awarding an honorary Palme d’Or — the festival’s most prestigious prize — to French actor Alain Delon, who has openly admitted to assaulting women and has made inflammatory comments against the LGBTQ+ community. In response, festival organizers said they were honouring Delon because “he is a legendary actor and part of Cannes history.”
Herein lies the problem with the Cannes festival – organizers seem unwilling to forgo prestige and tradition, even when it amounts to backlash that could spell the ultimate demise of the festival in the long-run. While organizers claim this is because the festival honours film above all else, there are, once again, only three female directors in the running for top prizes at this years festival: a trend that has been persistent for multiple years.
The 2019 edition of the festival will also see Netflix and other streaming platforms excluded from the festival once again. While other film festivals have openly embraced these new and acclaimed film studios, Cannes remains stringent in their dismissal of streaming services, claiming them to be nothing more than a fad rather than what most in the industry have come to see them as: the future of cinema.
While this year’s festival has made headlines with the world premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, it seems it will only be a matter of time until the Cannes Film Festival fades into obscurity if they continue on their current path towards irrelevancy.