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The 2001 indie movie Festival in Cannes pays wry tribute to cinema’s dreamers and schemers

The film really nails what makes the yearly spectacle of the Cannes Film Festival unique.

A big moment in Festival in Cannes.
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for May 20 through 26 is Festival in Cannes (2001), which is available to digitally rent on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu.

The biggest event in the film industry — the Cannes Film Festival — kicked off its 70th edition on Wednesday. Movies from the world’s most celebrated auteurs will premiere over the next week and a half, with a number of them competing for the festival’s top prize, the coveted Palme d’Or.

But for many of the thousands of people who flock to the festival, Cannes doesn’t just mean an opportunity to screen the movies that will drive chatter in international cinema for the next year. Cannes is also a beacon of possibility, a place to arrive with a film (or a dream of one) in your pocket and a hope in your heart.

That’s because a hefty percentage of the people lining the Boulevard de la Croisette (the main drag in town) are there to hunt down the next great film to finance or distribute, and filmmakers show up hoping to connect with someone who can back their movie. It’s a networker’s heaven.

But there’s also a certain amount of pageantry involved, wheeling and dealing and making promises that may or may not be grounded in reality. So to get a taste of what that looks like, where better to turn than a movie?

In 2001, an unassuming indie turned its eye toward this optimistic, dealmaking side of the festival. Titled, appropriately, Festival in Cannes, the film brings together the kind of characters you might bump into on the Croisette in any given year: an actress with a screenplay she’d like to direct; her screenwriter friends; the would-be financier they meet at a cafe whose methods seem less than orthodox; the big-time movie producer who’s trying to keep a deal from going under; the starlet who’s about to break out; the aging actress looking for a big role instead of another stint playing somebody’s mother; and many others.

A scene from Festival in Cannes
Wheeling and dealing, as you do.

Festival in Cannes mostly consists of conversations at cafes, in cabanas, on red carpet lines, at parties, on terraces and yachts. And it nicely captures both the vibe of the festival and the enduring strangeness of the kinds of connections — professional and romantic — that are forged in its high-intensity atmosphere.

In the end, it turns out, the Cannes Film Festival itself is more of a dark comedy than anything else. But people keep coming back, looking for their moment in the spotlight. Here’s to the ones who dream.

Watch the trailer for Festival in Cannes:

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