Taking place amid the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the postponed 2021 Cannes Film Festival is guaranteed to be an edition unlike any other.
The complex layers of health requirements that both the French government and festival organizers have put in place to keep attendees safe are also certain to generate considerable confusion.
So, to assist the global film community descending on the South of France navigate the complicated array of new policies and irregular events being planned, The Hollywood Reporter has sought to answer some of the common questions that seem to be coming up.
Who is in Cannes this year?
Fewer people than usual. This year’s festival is shaping up to be an especially European affair, as various COVID-19 immigration policies have dampened attendance from the U.S., U.K., Latin America and the major film markets of Asia.
France has a “traffic light system” in place that separates countries into categories, with different rules for visiting travelers who are fully-vaccinated and those who are not. The French guidelines make it feasible for travelers from many nations to attend Cannes, but the more restrictive quarantine requirements that some visitors face in their home countries upon return proved insurmountable to many working professionals.
As of June 9, fully vaccinated travelers from EU countries, as well as others designated “green” — including Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — can breeze into France without submitting a COVID-19 PCR test or going into quarantine. Currently only the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are accepted.
The U.S. was added to the “green” list only on June 17, leaving somewhat limited time for Cannes travel planning. The recent rise of the more contagious Delta variant also has deterred some U.S. industry people from making the jaunt to the Côte d’Azur. Americans aren’t required to quarantine when they return home, but they must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of travel (find details on where to get tested below).
Travelers from countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia, although categorized in France as “green,” are nonetheless required by their home countries to provide negative COVID-19 tests and submit to lengthy quarantines before re-entry. Not surprisingly, few Korean or Japanese buyers are physically present in Cannes this year.
Chinese buyers, meanwhile, a major force at recent Cannes markets, are almost entirely absent from the festival this year — and the immigration hurdles back in Beijing explain why. China is currently categorized as an “amber” country, which requires the fully vaccinated only to present a negative PCR test result. But France doesn’t currently recognize China’s Sinovac vaccine, which is the only vaccine widely available in the country. So, nearly anyone arriving in France from China has to submit to a seven-day quarantine upon arrival — and when they return home, China’s foreign ministry requires them to quarantine for 21 days in a government-selected hotel. Facing a full month of total quarantine time, buyers and sellers from virtually every major Chinese company are giving Cannes a miss this year.
Will stars still be walking the red carpet?
The Palais’ carpet has been rolled out, and the glamour is back. The premiere of Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch will deliver an eccentric collection of Hollywood star power to the Cannes red carpet on July 12, with Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Adrien Brody and potentially half a dozen additional stars expected to attend. Adam Driver will walk the carpet in support of opening film Annette, as will Sean Penn later in the week for his competition entry Flag Day. Jodie Foster is receiving an honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement and is a special guest at the opening ceremony. Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin will appear alongside their director Tom McCarthy for the out-of-competition premiere of Stillwater. And in a late announcement Tuesday, Cannes revealed that Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon-ho would be making a triumphant return to Cannes to participate in a masterclass. The South Korean auteur, a noted hardcore cinephile, will undoubtedly turn up at various premieres throughout Cannes’ 12-day duration.
Do I need to wear a mask?
The French government has dropped mandatory mask-wearing outdoors, though masks are still required inside shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas and other indoor venues, regardless of whether you are vaccinated. Removal of masks is only permitted while eating or drinking; and children under the age of 11 are exempted from wearing them.
Masks must be either surgical, FFP2 or standard-issued fabric masks manufactured with a filtration rate of over 90 percent, according to ANFOR Category 1 standards. They are for sale at drug stores throughout Cannes, as well as at the large Monoprix Cannes supermarket (9 Rue du Maréchal Foch).
Do I need to get a PCR and/or antigen test to fully access the festival?
Indeed, you do. To enter the Palais des Festivals, the festival’s main market venue, all attendees must provide a negative PCR test result received within the past 48 hours, or proof of a positive antigen test. The test results also are needed to access the Bazin and Brunel theaters within the Palais, but they are not required for the red carpet premieres at the Grand Théâtre Lumière and all other screening venues.
The test result documents, which include a QR code, must be uploaded to the French government app TousAntiCovid, available in English in the Apple App Store and Google Play. You will be asked to display your results on your phone for scanning upon entering the Palais.
The festival is providing free PCR testing at an onsite lab located on the Pantiero esplanade just next door to the Palais. The lab is open daily, 8 a.m.-9 p.m., from July 5 through July 17. The lab prefers that you pre-register and make an appointment via their website (easycovidbiogroup.com). The method used by the lab is a saliva test that requires you to dribble a significant amount of spit into a plastic tube. Some visitors have said it’s preferable to the nasopharyngical swab method common in the U.S., while others have whined about the difficulty and unpleasantness of generating the required volume of saliva. Still, safety for all first!
Test results are supposed to be received within six hours, although some visitors have reported it taking a couple of hours longer. Once you receive the result via email, there is a link within the document that allows you to directly upload it to the TousAntiCovid app, assuming you’ve already installed it on your phone.
For those in a hurry, the festival lab also offers Nasopharyngical Rapid PCR tests that can deliver results in 30 minutes — but they cost 50 euros ($59).
Antigen tests are also available at every French pharmacy. The test costs 10 euros and results are delivered in just 10 minutes. Again, you will be given a QR code that you can upload to the TousAntiCovid app.
How do I get tickets to screenings?
Unlike the lineup system of the past, all screenings in Cannes this year require registering requests for tickets online in advance. The festival ticketing website (https://ticketonline.festival-cannes.com) is somewhat clunky but functioning effectively so far. To log in, you must enter the username and password you’ll find printed at the bottom of your festival badge. You can then make a request for any film from 7 a.m., two days prior to the screening (for example, the screenings for Thursday, July 8 will be available at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6).
Your granted tickets will then be available in PDF format in the “my tickets” section of the website. You’ll also receive an emailed confirmation. If your plans change, you can also cancel tickets from within the “my tickets” section. If you don’t use tickets you have booked, the festival warns, “Any unused invitation will significantly reduce your chance to obtain subsequent invitations.”
Will there be social distancing inside the film screenings?
Nope. French cinemas are currently allowed to operate at full capacity with no special social distancing requirements, but viewers are required to wear masks at all times.
Is the Marche du Film being held as usual?
It certainly is — albeit with a larger than usual online component. As of Tuesday, the market had registered approximately 9,000 participants, with 60 percent of them attending in person. Marche executive director Jérôme Paillard says he expects physical attendance to reach 6,0000 by the end of the week, which will be 50 percent of 2019’s attendance record of 12,000 buyers and sellers. Including online registrations and remote dealmakers, this year’s market is expecting a healthy number of 10,000 participants. Paillard says the Marche has seen the steepest declines in attendance from the parts of the world still suffering under serious COVID-19 outbreaks and low vaccination levels, such as Latin America, Asia and Oceania.
To accommodate the large number of virtual buyers and sellers, many market screenings — but not all — will also be available digitally over the Marche’s official platform. Of the 564 films showing in the market, some 365 titles will be made available online, with a total of 1,300 screenings, including repetitions for various time zones.
Adds Paillard: “It’s very rewarding to start crossing paths with so many people who didn’t meet for 18 months and are so happy to be together again — for real, and with the beautiful sunny view of the bay of Cannes all around us.”
Are there any parties this year?
The party circuit is where Cannes continues to hurt most. Up until just one week ago, the festival was hoping to host its usual large-scale gala celebration for the opening film, Leos Carax’s Annette, but organizers decided to cancel it out of an abundance of caution. The Marche du Film also has scrapped its annual opening night party, while Universal Pictures has made no public plans to host a customary, lavish beachside bash for F9, the one Hollywood tentpole screening at Cannes. And none of the competition entry titles are known to be holding their usual rose-soaked soirees on premiere nights.
Instead, film companies are expected to host ad hoc private dinners for their filmmakers and business partners, where intimacy will replace the spontaneous encounters and large-scale shoulder-rubbing that typically makes the Cannes party scene an unpredictable thrill.
Midway through the festival, on July 9, all indoor nightclubs in Cannes will be allowed to reopen at 75 percent capacity — and wearing a mask will be recommended but not compulsory. Clubgoers will have to use the same TousAntiCovid app to gain entry, though, showing a recent PCR test result or proof of full vaccination. But since Cannes is taking place in the summertime instead of May, many of the beachside venues that usually get booked out for film events are instead already dedicated to public club nights targeting the tourist crowd.
The 3.14 Hotel’s rooftop lounge is shaping up to be one industry hotspot. The space is reserving itself for film industry gatherings throughout the festival’s duration, hosting junket events and becoming a lounge with priority access after 7:30pm for talent and industry professionals. On Sunday, July 11, for example, The Gotham will host a cocktail gathering toasting the U.S. films showing at Cannes.
Some of the glitzy charity dinners that always accompany Cannes will still go forward as well. Kering will host its annual gala for Women In Motion, its program celebrating women’s contribution to cinema, at the Place de la Castre in the hills above Cannes. The 27th edition of amfAR Gala Cannes also is scheduled to go ahead on July 16, with Alicia Keys headlining the event and charity auction. Jury chair Spike Lee will join the pop singer at the dinner, which this year is being held outdoors at Villa Eilenroc, with the guest count reduced from the usual 900 to an exclusive 400.
Why is it so hot this year?
It’s July, not May — and Cannes remains located in the South of France.
Is Cannes’ strict red carpet dress code still in effect even though it’s sweltering?
Bien sûr! Some things in Cannes, reassuringly, will never change.