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Cannes film festival

Cannes kicks off virtual marketplace, key hub for international cinema

Although the 2020 edition of the Cannes film festival was canceled, the event for industry professionals, the Marché du Film, is going ahead 22-26 June entirely online.
Although the 2020 edition of the Cannes film festival was canceled, the event for industry professionals, the Marché du Film, is going ahead 22-26 June entirely online. AFP - LAURENT EMMANUEL

The Marché du Film, the professional branch of the Cannes Film Festival gets underway on Monday in the first ever edition to be held entirely online. For five days, producers, distributors and filmmakers will take stock of this year's crop of international films.

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Organisers say despite not meeting face to face, the new virtual format is an innovative way to access emerging markets. 

The Marché du Film is one of the highlights for the cinema industry, and takes place over the two week Cannes Film Festival every year, attracting over 12,000 professionals.

Although the festival's 73rd edition in itself was cancelled due to the coronavirus, organisers quickly made the decision to hold the Marché du Film via an online platform in order to maintain an important event on the industry calendar.

Director of the event, Jérôme Paillard is enthusiastic about the start of the 100 percent virtual event, which coincides with the reopening of cinemas across France on Monday, as part of the easing of Covid-19 lock down measures.

Large European market 

With already 8,500 participants signed up, Paillard says it is important to hold an industry event such as this for big and small projects alike.

Of this figure, says Paillard, 40 percent represents the European market, 25 percent is from North America, 25 percent from Asia and six percent from South America.

"The sales people need to show their films, producers need to find finance, and distributors need content," he told the press.

"The machine has slowed down, but it hasn't completely stopped. Everyone is hoping it will get back up and running as soon as possible."

Organised through a secure platform, the virtual market place seeks to recreate some of the magic of the Palais des festivals and its international village, by keeping screenings in real time, as opposed to sending individual links. This means everyone is watching projects at the same time and can interact or bid for films like at a auction. 

Film music gets pride of place

1,200 screenings are planned across the five days of the event, which will also feature speed meetings, pitch presentations and workshops.

One of the special features is around film scores, and several round table discussions have been set up with composers such as Alexandre Desplat (The Ghost Writer), John Powell (Shrek), Ryuchi Sakamoto (Furya) and Camille Bazbaz (Après vous).

In terms of how well the virtual format could work, organizers suggest it's a mixture of excitement and anxiety as it's never been done before. 

New markets 

Interestingly, the 100 percent virtual format has already proven so far to be a way to attract new visitors, Paillard says.

"This year, we have companies from Asia, South America and even the United States which aren't usually present at the festival. For some, this could be an alternative."

"Cannes represents a huge turnover in terms of the film business," explains Unifrance director Daniela Elstner, in charge of promoting French films internationally.

"They (industry professionals) know that nothing can replace a physical festival, but it is nonetheless an opportunity to reinforce contacts, discuss projects and perhaps make some deals. Will it generate a lot of business? No-one knows. If it does, everyone will be happy. If it doesn't, we will have explored new options," she concludes. 

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