06 mai 2011

Random Factoid 3: Festival sizes

To those who think that festivals grow exponentially every year, out of control... you can see that the number of films selected in competition in the Cannes International Film Festival, since 1994, didn't vary much. (see PDF here for details). The official competition where nominees are eligible for La Palme d'Or, just like the parallel section, Un Certain Regard, have always been between 19 and 24; both 20 this year. La Semaine de la Critique didn't change its format, always 1 feature film per day : 7 in total (plus a handful of special screenings). La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs has fluctuated without regularity from 15 to 25, with a peak at 30 in 2003. La Cinéfondation supports 13 to 20 debuting filmmakers each year, since 1998.
Only the Off Competition screenings have increased steadily, from only 3 in 1994 to 23 in 2006... 19 this year.

In total the various competitions (Official, Regard, Quinzaine, SiC) amount in 2011 to 68 mandatory feature film viewing, plus the short films. The rest are promotional screenings. With 6 screenings a day, in 10 days, a dedicated critic could watch at least 60 films during the course of the festival (without counting the few advance-screenings for the press, ahead of the festival). And since the coverage of a festival by a film magazine or a newspaper is never a one-man show, 2 or 3 well organised critics could easily watch the complete selection (including the often neglected parallel sections!), plus snoop around for some unexpected gems in the promotional screenings and the marketplace. The task is easily manageable. I don't understand why certain critics dare to complain. World cinema is not defined by the maximum capacity of a single man to watch films within 10 days (especially when they crash celebrity parties instead of doing their job!)
Number of films in Cannes (1994-2011) Official selection
The only notable expension of the Cannes event, is actually a side show that is not an integer part of the Film Festival : Le Marché du Film; which doubled in size since 1994 (435 projects for sale), reaching a peak in 2008 (1004 projects). 876 films last year. But this part of the event is reserved for buyers (and the press), and is only there to benefit from the media coverage energized by the festival competition and the presence of red carpet galas!
The films selected in competition are the cream of the crop, at world-class level for the current year, these are the films critics must see and review. But critics don't need to watch all (if any) of the projects (often unfinished or not even started) promoted on the marketplace. So these should not count in the survey of the festival evolution. Most of these projects are not even great in the first place... it could easily be the commercial fare, at a mediocre level. If producers can afford to showcase a bad film in Cannes, nothing prevents it. While the Cannes competition is a serious process of selection from the best filmmakers in the world. Not necessarily the very best of the year (some may surface in Venice or Berlin), and sometimes films are invited for their original or risky aesthetics even if they don't measure up to the world's top tier. But the selection is artistically sound, contrary to the marketplace.

Do not mistake the marketplace event (commercial business) with the Festival competition (non-commercial celebration of art cinema). 
Number of films at the marketplace (Cannes 1994-2010)


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