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From Classroom to the Red Carpet: Attending The Cannes Film Festival

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Naomi Eden
Gemma Handley

Two students from the University of London Institute in Paris, Naomi and Gemma, had the incredible opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival as part of their Global Cinema class, accompanied by their lecturer, Dr Sabrina Bouarour. This unique experience allowed them to explore behind the scenes of one of the world's most prestigious film festivals.

The Cannes Film Festival is the biggest international film festival, held on the coast of the French Riviera, which previews films of all genres from all around the world, and has been running annually for almost 90 years. Thanks to our Global Cinema lecturer Sabrina Bouarour, we have had the incredible opportunity to attend this year’s festival!

It all began during our Global Cinema module in the second year of our French Studies programme. From the outset, Sabrina informed us of the exciting opportunity to accompany her to the festival in May, along with a partnership with John Hopkins University in Baltimore with four of their students.

We are now on our 6th day in Cannes and have had plenty of incredible experiences. 

Day one was predominantly a travel day, but we took a walk around the festival to get familiar with our surroundings and how the event functioned, including the different sections of the festival for different film categories. Some examples include ‘La Grand Theatre Lumière’ (which holds the premiers for the official selection and red carpet, ‘Un Certain Regard’ (Another competitive category which showcases mostly international and independent films), and ‘Quinzaine des Cinéastes,’ (a non-competitive category). 

In the evening we were lucky enough to get tickets to see the midnight premiere of Les Femmes au Balcon, in the Grand Théâtre, the first feature film directed by actress Noémie Merlant, this film follows three women during a heatwave in the South of France and has been described as a comedy horror. It tackled some serious themes relating to gender inequalities in a clever and entertaining way, and it has stayed one of our favourite films, out of the 12-15 that we have already seen during the festival! Some honourable mentions have to also be Santosh by Sandya Siri (both of which were nominated for ‘Un Certain Regard') and September Says by Ariane Labed.

The rest of our days have been filled with several movie screenings, more premieres, meetings with professionals in the industry, some celebrity sightings, as well as some after parties! But one of the most special events for us was attending a cocktail networking organised by the Collective 50/50, and having the opportunity to meet and discuss with those working with the collective. We had a meeting with a wide range of professionals: journalist of Africultures Hicham Rami, Aliénor Pinta (programmer of Festival Cinemed and Festival de La Rochelle), and Fanny de Casimacker, a delegant of the collective 50/50. She held a meeting, illustrating to us how the organisation is working towards gaining parity in the film industry through their educative programmes, and the ways in which the collective is helping provide more opportunities for women in the industry. Given that on average, only 5.2% of films shown at Cannes are directed by women, we found her work on such an issue to be very important. The event was extremely eye-opening and engaging, especially from our perspective as two female students interested in the film industry!

But with three days still to go until the end of the festival, this has already been an unforgettable experience. We hope to see even more movies in the upcoming days so please follow our Instagram @gemsandnaomiincannes for more updates! (Including celebrity sightings and film reviews!)