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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

Living My Lifelong Dream at The Cannes Film Festival

On June 17th, 2017, I found myself stranded at another dreaded family function in the suburbs of Boston. Being thirteen at the time there weren't a lot of options to help quell my boredom, so I opened my iPhone 5 and took part in my favorite activity, something I could do from anywhere, make movies. Over the next hour I forced my brother, Cillian and my best friend, Ella to make three short films in my Aunt Maryanne's backyard while my relatives sipped wine and chatted inside. Hours later, I presented my very own "Cannes Film Festival" in the living room to my entire extended family. This year, I made it to the real thing, and for the past two weeks, I have been living out the dream of thirteen year old me at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. It has been a whirlwind full of ups, downs, and things I never imagined I'd experience so early in my life.

Ever since the age of 8, I've known what I've wanted to do with my life, I wanted to be involved in the world of film. And the world of film is a giant, sprawling, daunting place. and at the very top of it all is the iconic Cannes Film Festival, held every year on the French Riviera. It is the world's largest, most prestigious film festival, and it's not an event you can simply buy a ticket to. Cannes is invite-only, and I knew that the only way I was going to end up there was if I found some way to claw my way into the ranks. This year, I started from the bottom as a videography intern, representing the United States in the American Pavilion, where every day I would slip on a navy-blue polo, record celebrity/industry panels, and spent every waking moment collecting as many business cards as I could carry.

I had no idea what to expect from my first time at Cannes, it was my first ever film festival, which is kind of like getting dugout seats to your first baseball game...which also happened to me. I was naïve enough to believe I'd be getting seats to every premiere I wanted, meetings tons of celebrities, and living the high life on the French Riviera. As it turns out, when you're at the bottom of the totem pole, you need to take what you can get in terms of screenings. I was fortunate enough to see over a dozen incredible films, but a lot of those only came from going on the ticketing website at 3am and refreshing 100 times until a single ticket became free. The largest venue at Cannes, The Grand Lumiere Theater has a capacity of around 2,300 people, and over 35,000 people attend Cannes each year, and a good portion of seats at screenings are reserved in advance for industry personnel. So getting into a screening can feel like a rat race, especially if it's a premiere. But when in doubt, you'll always be able to catch Cinema De La Plage screening every night on a nearby beach, which were always the perfect ending to a great day of film.

In Cannes, especially if you're working, you always have to be on. At any moment, some important person could walk into your country's pavilion, or a high value ticket could land on your doorstep. Being at the Cannes Film Festival was the first time I had felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself, something that meant something substantial. Every area of the festival was security-protected, so even though I was a mere intern, flashing my yellow badge everywhere made me feel important, powerful. Because I was a videographer, I got to sit in on over a dozen panels and roundtables with industry professionals, and people I've looked up to. I even got to work as security for Demi Moore one afternoon, I was mostly protecting her shot rather than her but it was still a surreal experience. I got to be in the same rooms as Faye Dunaway, Ron Howard, Rosalie Varda, Thierry Fremaux, and even got to meet the incomparable Wim Wenders, who was gracious enough to sign a postcard for me.

I was fortunate enough to see new films like Kinds of Kindness, The Apprentice, The Second Act, Faye, Jim Henson Idea Man, Hayao Miyazaki and the Heron, Marcello Mio, and a myriad of other classics and restorations. But even though I got to see so many incredible new films, my most memorable experience was actually seeing a movie that came out in 1964. During one of my final days in Cannes, I somehow scored a ticket to the restoration of Jacques Demy's masterpiece, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which has been my favorite French movie for years. It's a very emotional film that can be best briefly explained as a French La La Land. It's a movie I've seen a hundred times, but there was something special about seeing it in France, in a theater named after the director's wife, surrounded by people who loved it as much as I did. By the time the credits rolled, I couldn't help myself from shedding a tear. It was the single most unforgettable film experience I've ever had, and it was as if I was seeing it all for the first time. Even though this was second to last day in Cannes, that was the moment where it finally hit me where I was, what I was apart of. I will be chasing that feeling for the rest of my life.

Overall, the best part of Cannes isn't the prestige, or the atmosphere, and it's not even the film, it's the people. Throughout high school, it felt like I was just sitting around, waiting for college to come so that I could be surrounded by people who loved movies as much as I did. But by the time I got to college, I still hadn't really found my tribe, the people I could see myself being friends with for my entire life. In Cannes, I finally found those people. But beyond the American Pavilion, I also got to meet amazing people from around the world, including Canada, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Ireland, and countless other places. I'm happy to say that I got see a lot of incredible films, but I'm even happier that I got to meet so many incredible people. So thank you to The American Pavilion for the experience of a lifetime, and thank you to the following people for making it so memorable: Alex Michaud, Olav Carter, Lauren Montano, Gianna Ruocco, Megan Laursen, Cesar Castano, Michelle Zamarippa, Kymberli Smith, Max Dubner, Krystal Chambers, Sarina Govindaiah, Michael Bremer, Carmen Frost, Sheldon Schiffer, Fran Romero, Thomas Larson, Dylan Ortiz, Emma Griffith, Em Taber, Jared Scharf, Christian Choumenkovitch, Rebecca Marrow, and countless others.

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1 Comment

Jun 14

Congrats on an amazing opportunity. Thoughts on Kinds of Kindness?? Saw a trailer today and it looked pretty good

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