I’ve put together this post is for those who want to take part in the festival and get an idea of what happens from our own experience. I’ve broken down each day with a fair bit of detail, along with tips at the end.
Around 12 years ago whilst in Film Studies my friend Sarah and I made a promise to one day visit the prestigious Cannes Film Festival – not realising how exclusive it really is. We almost wrote it off… but on 14th May 2019 we landed in Nice to fulfill that promise.
I’ve visited Cannes several times before and know the small town quite well which was an advantage. I’ve done the ***** Le Majestic, the more budget-friendly aparthotel and also a very reasonably priced Airbnb’s (go for the Airbnb every time!) but this visit was a completely different trip. The population of the port town is around 75k but during the festival, this shoots up to around 250k and apparently the majority of those aren’t actually involved, they’re celeb spotting! They bring ladders to get the best view and everything… Here’s how we got on.
Chapter 1: Unhinged
As soon as I saw the applications for 3 Days in Cannes promoted I sent it over to Sarah and we quickly decided that we need to do this so we wrote the required cover letter to prove that we are worthy of the accreditation and opted for the early dates to see the festival in full swing instead of the quieter end of the festival.
Cue the most stressful month or so…
The organisation of the festival felt very last minute. We had to wait to see if our application was successful, fill out a survey and then wait again to check that we are 100% accepted. During this time flights and accommodation prices were skyrocketing.
Stress levels were high, I think we went through all the emotions with this. We decided to pack it in a couple of times but then we slept on those decisions and overruled such silliness, we needed to do this or we’d regret it.
The hotel’s price out the majority of people so we headed to Airbnb which ended up being endless bookings being cancelled as they had rented elsewhere and not updated their calendars! Luckily we ended up finding a listing that only had one image but seemed reasonably good. We took a gamble on it and got everything booked.
Chapter 2: Arrival
We flew from Liverpool to Nice, landing at 4pm and luckily I had ignored Sarah’s frugal plea to get the bus or the train as I knew it’d be packed and ordered a car to pick us up from Welcome Pickups. The trains were all canceled due to an accident on the line and the bus had a two-hour wait. The accreditations office shut at 6 pm and thankfully our driver got us there in time – phew!
We did have a third person who was going to jump in with us but her flight from Tel Aviv was delayed. Luckily I was able to pick up her accreditation for her so she didn’t miss half of the next day. For future reference, in order to do this you just need a photo of their ID and acceptance email.
Luckily our risqué Airbnb booking turned out to be fantastic, the owner had some serious style and it was a great size with a lovely outdoor area we’d never get to use due to leaving early in the morning and getting back late. We stayed near the Cannes Hospital and it was around a 10-15 minute Palm bus ride.
There was a large WhatsApp group for the people visiting in these specific dates and we met some during and after our meal at Beefhouse (double steak haché yum) including Chris from London aka Lightbulb shirt guy. I recommend getting to know a group of people whilst you’re there, apart from the obvious new friends there are lots of queuing and you can also all help each other out with tickets.
A few days prior to the festival starting we were allowed to request tickets for films we’d like to see. By this first evening, we hadn’t been granted any that we asked for so we decided to do a last-minute request for the morning showing of The Dead Don’t Die. We received e-tickets that can be shown on your phone instead of having to collect them by a certain time before the showing, which put a lot of people in an awkward position. Again for future reference someone else can pick up tickets for you.
Chapter 3: They Live
Our day stated at 5am (4am UK time) to get ready, grab some breakfast and catch the bus for the 8:15am doors for the star-studded and much anticipated The Dead Don’t Die. We had absolutely no sleep the night before, thanks to the guy above us throwing up all night and the entire apartment block slamming doors.
The weather was sadly wet and dreary for the Côte d’Azur, so I’m glad I brought my bright yellow umbrella to keep us dry in the queue where we met a very smily and friendly Rory from America, who had visited last year.
We had our first walk up the red carpet for this showing as it was held in the Grand Theatre Lumiére which holds an epic 2300 people. Whilst seeing men roam around in Tuxedo’s is pretty normal, during the day this Theatre doesn’t require black tie attire unless it’s a Gala. Seats are a free for all for most locations and you’ll most likely get a Balcon seat which is fine. The screen itself is smaller than you think, they definitely need an IMAX in there!
Yes, everyone claps at the production house logos. Nope, no one can stay awake.
The Dead Don’t Die, Jim Jarmusch **
Everyone was hyped for this star-studded zombie movie in competition for the Palm d’Or (which is the highest award at the Festival de Cannes) but we left feeling underwhelmed. It’s filled with cameos and there are some fantastic references (I felt like no one got RZA’s though, what’s up with you?). Driver and Murray give us very dry humor, of course. Some characters’ stories were left incomplete… Also, some bits were just so random. Christ, my eyes were so heavy I was battling them for the majority of the film.
It had thankfully brightened up whilst we were in the screening and afterwards, we dashed from the Dead Don’t Die to buy tickets for the discussion with the man, the legend, the master of horror himself John Carpenter for Directors Fortnight which was held at the JW Marriott. You don’t actually need a ticket but the blue ticket queue has higher priority than the green festival badge queue (top tip)… so get one. They’re sold at La Malmaison in a little stand outside.
We got a rare hour or so to ourselves so we managed to get some food to eat on the go and had a flying visit to the Marche du Film, which is the business side where companies sell their films although the majority displayed in there will never get made. That was followed by a brief visit to the Pavilions, each country has one except Belgium, they just have a Yacht instead – ballin’. Lots of free swag.
A discussion with John Carpenter
Making use of those blue tickets we bought earlier. After about an hour queuing all four of us got seats near the front with a good view and I think we were all slightly excited, except Sarah as she didn’t know who he was and I almost had to disown her for that.
It was great to hear from him and his experiences but I felt the discussion aspect was lost because the two hosts were asking questions in French. John’s translator would then whisper the question in English to him and he’d answer in English. So non-French speakers only got a gist of what was asked. After John answered his translator would repeat it all in French. Slow.. and John was clearly not a fan of the ordeal! Nonetheless, I’m so glad we saw that. Being a huge fan of his work and Halloween being one of my favourites it was my Festival highlight!
Le Daim (Deerskin), Quentin Dupieux ****
I had heard of this movie from social media posts sharing the ridiculous synopsis which is essentially a man being obsessed with his new deerskin jacket so when Rory mentioned it was showing and we could make it I was definitely up for it.
This French movie has a short run time at 1h 17m but it’s worth every minute. Jean Dujardin comes across as quite a serious bloke but he plays such a hilarious role with his new (but used) deerskin jacket complete with tassels – which cost an absolutely eye-watering amount by the way.
It is a comedy but does eventually take a turn. It’s certainly worth a watch once it becomes available! I think this was my favourite of the bunch.
Chapter 4: Hostel?
Sarah went for another early morning screening of Bacurau via the last-minute queue (which isn’t promised) but I had to stay in bed as I was absolutely cream crackered.
Les Miserables, Ladj Ly ***
I met with Sarah later on to queue for Les Miserables which I didn’t know much about but really hoped wasn’t going to be a musical. It turned out to be a gritty police drama which we all really enjoyed and fit quite well with the current climate of Police VS Citizens, heavy-handed police and so on. Did he? Didn’t he?
Bacurau, Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho ****
Sarah saw the early morning showing of this and said I had to go and see this odd mix between Black Panther and Hostel. Ok? They peaked my interest… off I went to see what all the fuss was about over at the Soixantieme theatre (which is really comfy but you can hear the UberCopter constantly).
Whilst in the queue I met Pauline who was an Actress who had come over from Belgium on the same badge as us. You meet all sorts of people in the queues which makes the experience so much better!
This Portuguese film which has a runtime of 2h 11m is pretty batshit crazy, to be honest and their references do make sense. It certainly has violence in it but it’s not a horror movie, more of an action/adventure thriller.
The four of us regrouped inside of The Palais and watched the Rocketman premiere from there as the streets were so packed with the celeb spotters. Rory even turned out to be an unlikely paparazzi as some of the celebrities who walked the red carpet walked through past us; I’m looking at you Miles Teller and Priyanka Chopra.
The days are so jam-packed but somehow the four of us found some time for a sit-down meal at an Italian restaurant before heading to the beach screening. Chris managed to order four mozzarella balls and nothing else lol don’t do that. The queue for that huge, absolutely no chance of us getting onto the seating area. Know when to cut your losses and move on. It was chilly, spitting and as it turns out there were no subtitles with the film so we dodged a bullet. We went to queue for a critics week film instead which was over at the Miramar Hotel.
A White White Day, Hlynur Palmason *
Good god, I stay salty about this one. When a film starts with five minutes of the same shot through different seasons you know you’ve made a bad decision. Pretentious. Out of all the films I saw, I think I counted the most walkouts in this 1hr 41m Icelandic film. It was part of critics week so it was obscure.
I didn’t find myself caring for any of the characters and the first half was incredibly slow. It does pick up in the second half but it wasn’t enough for it to redeem itself with me. This is the arthouse flick for you hardcore lot. I’m not getting that time back. I think my biggest regret here was staying put, I should have just left with all the other people who walked out and headed somewhere else, meeting back up with the others once they were done.
After that abomination, we paid a visit to Ma Nolan’s which is a popular Irish Bar before heading our separate ways for some much-needed sleep. For real. It’s knackering.
Chapter 5: The Staircase
Today I decided to give the last minute queue for the Lumiére a go and due to the lack of invites provided to me and Sarah I decided to pass the time whilst queuing for Rocketman I’d make a sign to beg with, the Cannes way. We had sourced Gala attire so I was going to try and swindle some Gala tickets. It’s a thing and people in the WhatsApp group were having success with so what did I have to lose?
I managed to get the last seat for the showing, I was literally shoved from the bright white hallways of the Palais into a seat in the pitch-black theatre just as someone tried to pick a fight with me after she came up the escalator and demanded it was her space even though it wasn’t me pushing forward. The festival brings out the shittiness in some people.
Before I went I read a blog post that stated that no one who left the theatres ever came back. Well, I’m happy to confirm that there’s no need to uncomfortably hold your pee in, those people probably walked out which is very common. People do not seem to waste their time on films they’re not feeling. Remember most people there are actually working. Anyway, when I had to pop out during Rocketman I could not find my seat on my return because it was so dark – neither could the security guy. Not to worry because it turns out they’re alright with you giving up and just sitting on the stairs! Give it half an hour and someone else will not return so you can steal their seat. Boom!
Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher ****
The visuals were fantastic, Egerton’s portrayal of Elton John was nothing short of incredible but I wasn’t expecting it to burst into song all the time. I was expecting a biopic full of concerts and recordings but not that.
Once out of the screening I had time to kill before Sarah’s screening finished so I stood in front of the Palais for 35 minutes. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave. I managed to get one ticket and then another straight after! They were for different locations but took me a while to realise what was written on one of the tickets… Loge President.
As these people kindly gave me their tickets I was hounded by vultures. This annoyed me because I was trying to say thank you to these two guys and chat with them but the others pushed themselves into the conversation, complaining, whining. As I said, the festival brings out some peoples shitty attitudes, don’t be one of those.
So off we went to prepare for our Gala. I’m terrible at black tie. I had to shop around a lot to find a women’s Tuxedo. I went completely blacked out, black tux, black shirt, black shoes and black pussy bow. My friend was in a gown so we looked like a wonderful lesbian couple for the evening. We met up with the dapper Chris and Rory all tux’d up and got in the queue for the carpet. There are different queues for different locations.
Apparently there’s a photographer with a red bowtie you can go to for a “nobody” picture (to buy) but I didn’t see him and didn’t take too long on the carpet, security tends to push us nobodies over it quickly haha.
So when I had my ticket scanned I was escorted to the judges’ room where they make their decisions. I knew about this room purely because I’ve done the tour previously and was like “oh shit ok…” I got my front row seat within the box by an exec who had waited 20 years for those seats (lol) and then I watched these three Americas come in, the two women were in the ugliest frocks and they bitched about the whole thing, said they were bored and then left to go to a party elsewhere. Yep, people go purely to walk the carpet in their ugly frocks. As they left they threw their tickets on the ground, so of course I picked them up and got my friend in the box with me woop woop, the lads were happily settled (blocked in) so they didn’t join.
Too Old to Die Young, Winding Refn ***
You’ve probably come across this on Amazon. It was a couple of TV show episodes rather than a film. Typical Refn I think but I’ll be honest, I didn’t see much because I was so finished I fell asleep for most of it alongside most the others in the seating area haha. Refn got what felt like 10-minute standing ovation which woke me up and then did a 15-minute speech whilst chewing on gum. I landed myself on Cannes TV as the cast entered and left. Miles Teller we meet again.
Us four then went to celebrate our last night with overpriced cocktails at Le Majestic and said our goodbyes as we all left for home the next day. We all still keep in touch, it’d be nice to go back to Cannes with them all and share a larger apartment. It was an incredible experience, we are so glad we preserved and did it. 2019 was one hell of a year – thankfully.
Chapter 6: Absolutely Fabulous.
Ok this is what you’re here for right? The tips!
Find a location to stay as close as possible and possibly on a bus route. Everyone staying close will have the advantage on you. The days start early if you want to try and get in for a morning showing (8am) and they run late. Plus the socialising. The days are long, you will be shattered. Also, the days are casual but if you find yourself with a Gala ticket (which you may not get till last minute) you need to go and change to black tie.
Arrive a day early if not more to get your pass before they shut for the day. Add on an extra day at the end too if you can. You won’t get to see much of the area otherwise. Plus there’s Directors’ Fortnight and other screenings you can enter without a pass.
The bus around Cannes itself is cheap, you can download the routes and app and buy two-day tickets. It’d be wise to find a place to stay which is on the Palm Bus route.
There’s a lot of queuing, plenty of toilets inside the Palais but for when you’re out and about, go to MacDonald’s by the Palais, buy something. Keep your receipt as this will be your access code to the (grim) toilets upstairs.
Pack sun cream for queuing and maybe an umbrella. You never know!
Get on WhatsApp and not only make some friends, but also organise flight arrivals with others and get yourselves a group ride. Use Blacklane or Welcome Pickups. As per my story… it’s France… prepare for the unexpected, especially strikes. Also, be aware that others flights may get delayed.
You can get into screenings via the ballot* on your account area (don’t rely on this, we got one), asking at the ticket desk in Le Palais if there are any tickets* left for anything, someone handing you their own ticket*, blue tickets for Le Quinzaine which anyone can buy and by queuing. Some showings are 100% queue, other showings that require tickets do have last-minute lines, nothing is guaranteed with these you are simply a seat filler.
* You must make sure your tickets get scanned or it’ll penalise you for not using them. And if some kind soul has given you their ticket, you affect them.
Beg Cannes style, why not? Mine was made on the back of a Old El Paso fajita kit box. You could pre-make one but I think the people there appreciate one done on the fly, scribbled out.
If you buy blue tickets for the screenings in the hotels you will get them cheaper if you’re a student. You’ll also get them cheaper if you confuse the poor seller by trying to be honest, telling them that you’re not a student in broken French.
Yes, you can go to the toilet mid-screening – but you may never find your seat again. They do not stop you from walking back in.
Cannes is not cheap outside of the festival time and I’m pretty sure places put their prices up during the festival.
For the Gala’s at night, women seem fine in a tuxedo and you don’t actually need heels as long as they’re dress shoes. If you’re a man you need a Tuxedo or a dark suit with a bow tie. You can opt to not bother with Gala’s.
Carrefour on Rue Meynadier is really handy. Also if you’ve not tried them before make sure you get some Bonne Maman Madeleines. Perfect snack.
Also, foreigners. It’s pronounced KAN/CAN like coke can. Not Khan or Can’s.
You Cannes Do It!