In 'The Architecture of Happiness" the philosopher Alain de Boton discusses the importance of the working environment on productivity and job satisfaction. When the European Commission's small MEDIA team arrived at the European Pavillion during the Festival de Cannes, I thought to myself: "this must be one of the best offices on earth!”. A typical office it is not. The turquoise Mediterranean sea laps the white sand and the gleaming spires of the European village that is filled with thousands of independent European film and TV producers who come to one of the most important film festivals worldwide to exhibit their latest work visible to the vast audience.
Cannes is usually a sleepy fishing village, but transformed for two weeks a year into the home of the global movie industry. Everyone is there from mega producers like Harvey Weinstein with seemingly infinite budgets to" buy! buy! buy! "; to the young filmmaker showcasing an arthouse film put together with love for 500 euros on his iphone 4. Cannes provides the perfect showcase for MEDIA, the European Commission's financial support instrument for the audiovisual business. This year a record 25 MEDIA supported films were included in the official selection, cumulating in the award of best actress ex aquea to Roomey Mara in "Carol" and Emmanuelle Bercot in "Mon Roi"; of the Grand Prix to the quirky "The Lobster" and finally of the "Palme d'Or itself to the beautiful, heart wrenching "Deephan" by French auteur Jacques Audiard.
Cannes is not only a “vitrine”, it is an opportunity to meet key partners. In addition to high level bilaterals, Commissioner Oettinger gave an opening speech at the European Film Forum (EFF) conference , "The Moving Image: Connecting European Films to a Global Audience", with thought-provoking introductory remarks by Oscar Winning director, Lord Putnam, and participated in a lively Young Filmmakers Forum attended by Oscar nominated director A. Sissako and Palme d'Or nominated Joachim Trier whose latest work MEDIA supported work "Louder than Bombs" was in competition.
The held open as well as frank discussions with the sector on issues such as copyright, the AVMS refit, audience development and the international perspective for European audiovisual. Also triggered by the recent launch of the Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM), copyright was the subject on everyone's lips this year and the importance of the discussions were underlined by a parallel event held by the French audiovisual sector, and opened by Fleur Pellerin, French Minister of Culture then closed by the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
But of course Cannes is all about the films. They are shown on a loop throughout the day culminating in the glamorous red carpet screenings in the evening which provide so much copy for newspapers and TV shows throughout the world. I personally prefer the joy of an early morning press screening. It is worth struggling, bleary eyed, along the beach at 7 am to see the first screening on earth and gauge the reaction of the assembled press pack. These reactions are startling, pure black or white, there is no polite applause. One of my happiest memories of Cannes, as a child who grew up in troubled Northern Ireland where there are only two football teams to follow at school, Liverpool or Manchester-United, was the press preview a few years back of Ken Loach's “Looking for Eric". This is the story of a football loving postman who suffers from depression following the breakdown of his marriage. The normally unforgiving hacks, being middle-aged, cynical and Rosé soaked, were momentarily transformed into adoring children, chanting in unison 'Cantona! Cantona! Cantona!” at the sight of their hero on the silver screen. This year I had the privilege of seeing a midnight screening of the MEDIA supported documentary on tragic soul singer Amy Winehouse; a lunchtime screening of the heartstoppingly beautiful "Carol", the story of a lesbian love affair in 1950's America; and the Palme d'Or itself. "Deephan" tells the tale of an ex-tamil tiger who after the death of his family in the war in Sri Lanka, tries to create a new life and build new relationships in Europe.
At the end it is not all about marketing and support for the audio-visual industries: –, our programmes help creatives tell personal, local stories of universal resonance which bring joy to millions.
See also the blog post of Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger