Cannes: Festival selection still the 'best of the best,' say US film professionals

Launched in 1946, the Cannes Film Festival is still the golden standard for international cinema events. In terms of glamour and business opportunities, the French festival maintains its distinctive reputation worldwide. Relaxnews rounded up some US experts to explain why this annual ritual in the South of France remains the world's ultimate cinema event.

"Despite the advent of technology and the explosion in the number of rival film festivals, the cinematic world still gathers here every year," explained Sharon Waxman, editor of, a Hollywood show business website read by the trade.

Amidst the glamour of the south of France, a parade of A-list stars promote their films and professional players wheel and deal, keeping the Festival de Cannes' distinctive reputation worldwide.

"Because movie stars consistently appear there in films that are eagerly awaited by film critics from around the world, the media shows up in force," Waxman told Relaxnews. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are a few of the many attending premieres and tributes in 2012.

The establishment of Cannes as an annual cinema event draws more than 30,000 attendees to the event, film industry professionals from producers to buyers, as well as 4,400 members of the media to screen films and cover the spectacle.

What sets the festival apart most perhaps is the high selectivity of the film program. From the more than 4,300 films submitted for consideration, only about 22 are chosen for screenings in the juried competition. "The limited selection means the films are a certain caliber and keeps it the best of the best," notes Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist. "Countries are proud when their films are recognized globally there."

The marketplace is a key factor in the importance of Cannes and doesn't exist at other film fests, such as Venice and Toronto in the fall. Hollywood and global film studios gather to also announce film projects for press attention.

"Cannes partly retains its relevance because of the film market, where films get financing every year, and distribution deals are struck," says Waxman about the busy Marche du Film and the Producers Network.

"The Cannes Film Festival feels like an anachronism in many ways, but one which still remains relevant in the film world. It's hard to discount a festival where the Oscar winner for Best Picture this year was first seen [The Artist]," she noted, adding "that's why I still feel I have to be there!"

While Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which won the Palme d'Or in 2011 wasn't a huge hit in the US, the buzz created over films is irreplaceable. It can lead to multiplex theaters showings and may be the first indication of upcoming awards.

"It's still the king of all the festivals," agrees Dana Harris, editor of, a website for filmmakers, the industry and moviegoers. Formerly with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, she's attended many times. "There's another whole way in which the film business measures the value of these movies and Cannes."

The Cannes Film Festival balances both the art and the industry of film. "Cannes has the lock on auteur-driven cinema. It is ground zero," says Harris, noting that Wes Anderson's film Moonrise Kingdom opening the fest this year and an out-of-competition screening of the acclaimed Beast of the Southern Wild from Sundance.

Cannes remains important for a multitude of reasons - the selectivity of the films in competition, the deals made at the market, the high-profile stars and industry players, and the media who cover all of the above.