Cannes Diary

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Old 27-May-2012
Cannes Diary

UNP ImageCannes Diary 7

No, that can't be her? I was there," said my friend as we watched the daily television coverage of the festival from the hotel room.

"Yes, I am afraid it is her," I replied.

She flashes a radiant smile, perfect hair and flawless make-up. She looks 10 years younger and is sporting a million dollar dress. That's her, all right. But last night, we saw something completely different.

Right there and then, on the carpet, all alone, twirling, smiling and waving to the photographers, she looked picture perfect. As I climbed the stairs, I spotted her from far, and I thought to myself, "Wow, she hasn't aged a day."

As everyone around me, we were all star-struck. Even the stars couldn't help but stand and stare. She was on fire!

But everything changed after: As I entered the Palais, right before the projection room, I was fortunate to be invited into a certain lounge area, where all the high-profile celebrities wait before watching the film. Not that I am a high-profile celebrity, I just tagged along as a plus one of an actor friend of mine, so I got to see all of this.

There, inside the room, with bad lighting, in close proximity, 20 different gowns crowded together, I looked around me, and I found myself in Madame Tussaud's wax museum. Their faces were expressionless, their stares were faded and with all the fabrics, hairstyles and 30 kilos of make-up, I was in a carnival.

Bottom line — don't get fooled by their photos. They are all like me and you. Some of them have zits, others a bad hair day and some even sweat. They're human and some are just photogenic, simple as that. So I couldn't help but wonder why we have a distorted perception of beauty.

Tweet me your thoughts. See you all in Dubai, my friends. Adieu.

Cannes Diary 6

Women were screaming, others were running, and I look underneath me and I see sea water trickling right passed my shoes as we are having dinner by the beach at the Carlton beach front. Last night, the waves in Cannes were too festive and almost destroyed the pavilion built on the beach front on the Croisette.

The women ran for their leather bags, held the tails of their dresses and in a split second, from their posy chic postures, the whole place became like an Olympic running game on high heels and evening dresses. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was like a film.

This afternoon, I went back and the place was still just like a film. The scenes after a battle scene. The weather was not helping -raining cats and dogs, dark heavy clouds towering one another covering the French riviera.

You look to the beach front and you see it full of trucks and machines dumping sand to create a barrier to the rough waves. And don’t let me tell you about the cold. It was freezing where all we have packed is summer clothes. It was a nightmare on Cannes street.

Now that I am one leather shoes less since I found out sea water and leather dont go very well together and a sour throat, I decided to go back to my room, and take this day off. I will work on my scenario quietly while room service takes care of me.

Sometimes, after five days of intense social meetings and gatherings, you need to recede back to your privacy and recharge for the rest of the festival. And I cant think of a better day. I hope I am woken up tomorrow by a sunny Cannoise sun beam because I am leaving my curtains open.

Cannes Diary 5

Life is all about being in the right place at the right time. Right place, check. Right time, uncheck! And I am talking about yesterday's Cannes diary entry. To all the readers who were following my diary, I do apologise. The inevitable has happened. I missed my deadline for print!

The folks at tabloid! on Saturday, who have been supportive of my career from Day 1, need to be a bit more harsh with me when it comes to deadlines! (They were the first to break the news in 2010 when I was in Paris, in production of The Philosopher. How they came to know about it is beyond me, but nonetheless, Gulf News holds a special place in my heart.)

I really have no excuse, since filmmaking is about multitasking — and that means juggling 100 things at the same time, and, boy, have I been juggling the past few days. Nonetheless, the fifth-day entry is posted online.

Let's get back to the "right time, right place" thought. It's funny how you meet people in the strangest and most bizarre situations during festivals. To me, festivals are like a game of treasure hunt. You meet someone, he gives you a clue and guides you to another person, who gives you another clue. Before you know it, you are getting closer and closer to finding the treasure. It's fun at times, but like every game, challenging at others.

We all have different notions of our treasure. As for me, I'm still looking for it. Do I want to find mine? Not so soon. I think I am more interested in the hunting part rather than the finding bit. Because once you do find your treasure, what next, right? I'll spare you all the philosophy for now, I'm back to multitasking.

A démain mes amis.

Cannes Diary 4

I always say filmmaking is 95 per cent soul-crushing hard work and 5 per cent glamour. Rejection and closed doors become a lifestyle and the worst bit is the waiting. You wait for days, weeks, months for a response. It's pretty tough, trust me on that one. So for all the upcoming aspiring filmmakers, don't fall for the scam, it's not that glamorous after all.

But in Cannes, the statistics and percentages flip. Its 95 per cent glamour and 5 per cent hard work. People from around the world jet into town for the most lavish parties during the festival. The town completely transforms at night. All the luxury brands flock into town to position themselves with the festival that has become a synonym of luxury — from charity dinner galas and parties that last to the break of dawn, hosted by fashion houses, to German car manufacturers and the big-spending American studios.

A perfect festival day would be to set up your meeting while sipping coffee on a sunny terrace (although the weather is dull and rainy this week, so the interior café at Carlton will do just fine) then set another meeting on the plage (beach) for lunch. From then, you start networking and attending all the day events or watch the films you missed. By then, it's the 6 o'clock rush. Change into your tux, and you are set to go for the screening. After that, with the rush of watching a good film, you are set to take Cannes by night, hopping with friends as we break down the film we watched earlier.

Good food, good company, sunny weather and, above all, good films. I can't really ask for more. But the end of the festival is approaching and I see that 95 per cent soul-crushing hard work waiting for me. So I better enjoy the fun while it lasts.

Cannes Diary 3

The question that I have always dreaded to ask was asked today: "Can someone please tell me how this film got selected?"

After a hectic day of running up and down the Croisette, I treated myself to a red carpet screening, an American film called Lawless, starring Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce. The film is set in the depression-era in Virginia and is about a bootlegging family threatened by authorities who want to cut their profits.

Where should I start? Maybe with the number of people who left the projection half-way through the film. I envied them, but I would never do it — it's a big no-no to run away while the director is sitting there, even if it is a bad film. He ought to be respected for the work he put in it. Trust me, readers, there is nothing worse than sitting through two hours of a violent blood-gushing gangster film with a very bad family-based story.

Talking of family, to me personally, one of the biggest rewards in working in the film industry is the sense of family — one big happy filmmaking family. Running around the festival, you start to run into the same people in the film circuit that you see every year, and for me, especially the Arab film crowd, who I get to see more often in the film festival season in the Gulf.

We all look out for and guide one another. In a business that is heavily reliant on networking, we start setting up meetings for friends, knowing that maybe this producer would be good for this director, etc.

I retire to my hotel room happy to be part of this wave of Arab filmmakers that soon will shape the face of cinema in the Middle East. Now I have to get ready for the festival at night, because that is a whole different story I will tell you about in my next entry. Bon film!

Cannes Diary 2

I call it the 6 o'clock rush! It's when you are running from your hotel after a full day of meetings back-to-back looking exactly like that and changing into your tuxedo to be on time for the 7pm red carpet screening. And boy, have I not mastered the 6 o'clock rush! I have it all programmed to the minute.

Yesterday's film was Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bones. He's the director that two years ago won the Palme D'Or for his film, A Prophet. To be honest, I watched that film with my eyes closed since the violence was a bit too much to take, so I was interested to see how he would be able to deliver a romantic story in his style of directing. And he did!

The film talks about an unconventional love story of a social misfit and a girl who loses her legs. Beautifully made, strong performances but I did think at points it was a bit "too much". Regardless, I sneaked across and spotted Marion Cotillard silently crying to her film by the end, she knew what was coming, a standing ovation that lasted a minute and a half (I timed it!)

Cannes Diary 1

It's the time of the year. It's where all the people who are in one way or another responsible for the magic we see on the silver screen gather on the sunny French Riviera. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious film festival in the world.

Being my third year in the festival, I discovered that the festival does not actually start on the red carpet steps in front of the cameras, shouts and screams of the photographers as they push one another for that money shot, but the real festival, I can share, starts on the train.

As a former resident of Paris, I would always take the train to Cannes. I recall the first trip, it was in the early hours so I decided to head for a cup of coffee in the canteen on board the train. While sitting there in the corner sipping on my coffee, I looked around me and found a trailer full of directors, actors, producers and writers, all chatting and networking and talking so passionately about one thing we all share in common, our love for films.

And the same is happening today, on my trip to Cannes on board the train, I found the same energy and crowd, with young hopeful filmmakers, mixing and mingling together. Each sharing his list of films to catch, which stage they are with their film projects and, most importantly, what they hope to get out of the festival.

As for me, the hunt for the producer is on. Having spent the last year invested on finalising my script, I hope that this year, in one of those dozen meetings I have set on my agenda, I do find that one producer that can make my film a reality and I can't think of a better place to hold these meetings, a place so close to the reality I seek for my film, La festival de Cannes. So, let the festivities begin.

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