What Is the Cannes Film Festival? Inside the Prestigious Entertainment Event

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May 25 2023, Updated 2:35 p.m. ET

Official logo for the Cannes Film Festival
Source: Cannes Film Festival

Every year, jealous bystanders watch the Cannes Film Festival with a never-ending parade of gorgeous actors, directors, and models in attendance. The attendees are admitted to private screenings of some of the hottest up-and-coming films, getting an exclusive first look with talkbacks by the directors or actors. Not to mention, the red carpet style of attendees is always a great way to spot summer trends in action.

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So, what is the Cannes Film Festival? Why is everyone suddenly talking about movies that won't hit theaters for months? Here's what you need to know.

Riverside at the Cannes Film Festival.
Source: Getty Images
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So, what is the Cannes Film Festival?

The Cannes Film Festival (pronounced CAN) was founded in 1946 and takes place in Cannes, France. The festival is an invitation-only film festival celebrating films of all genres, including documentaries, from across the globe. Cannes is so prestigious that attendees are not allowed to take selfies on the red carpet.

Per Vox, typically, only a few dozen films are selected to show during the festival, but at least 20 appear "in competition" for the top prize: the Palme d’Or ("golden palm").

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The programming at Cannes is divided into four categories. First, In Competition, which, according to the festival website, is "arthouse cinema with a wide audience appeal." There's also Un Certain Regard or films with "original aim and aesthetic." These are movies with a limited theatrical release.

Model Leonie Hanne attends a viewing of 'Triangle of Sadness' at Cannes 2022.
Source: Getty Images
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Then there's Out of Competition, or films that the committee recognizes but don't fit the competition criteria. The festival website notes that these are films "that have a big impact on the cinematic calendar" and usually viewed at Midnight Screenings or Special Screenings. Additionally, Cinéfondation, which are films by students in film school, premiere at the festival as well. These films cannot exceed one hour.

The Cannes Film Festival is iconic for its fashion and meme-able moments.

The red carpet at Cannes is always one to watch. In recent years, celebs like Kristen Stewart, Florence Pugh, Viola Davis, Tom Cruise, Idris Elba, and many more have stepped onto the red carpet and made quite a statement with their looks.

The festival and the pictures taken there are also ripe meme material. Who could forget when the cast of Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch stood together for a photo and instantly reached meme status?

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