March 19, 2020
by Carla Hay
The 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, has been postponed until further notice. The event had been scheduled to take place May 12 to 23, 2020. The news should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows about the worldwide cancellations/postponements of events since the coronavirus outbreak was classified as a pandemic in March 2020. France is one of the countries that has been hardest hit, with movie theaters, restaurants and many other businesses ordered to be shut down.
Although a statement on the Cannes Film Festival website says that the event will hopefully be rescheduled for June or July 2020, those months seem very unrealistic, considering that it will take France several months to recover from the pandemic. Many other events around that world that are taking place in June and July 2020 are being postponed or cancelled.
A Cannes Film Festival press conference to announce the movies selected for the 2020 festival was scheduled to take place on April 16, 2020, but that press conference has also been postponed.
The Cannes Film Festival has long been considered the most prestigious film festival in the world. Many of the films that win prizes at Cannes go on to win or get nominated for Oscars. The South Korean film “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joo Ho, won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize (the Palme d’Or) in 2019, and the movie went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture.
Even with the prestige, the festival has been at the center of controversy in recent years. The controversies include the festival’s low percentage of films from female directors; a policy instituted in 2018 that bans people from taking selfies on the red carpet; and the festival’s refusal to allow films to compete unless they can be released theatrically in France at least three months before they’re available on home video or streaming services. This latter policy has resulted in Netflix no longer participating in the Cannes Film Festival, as of 2018. Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, who has held the position since 2007, has gotten the majority of the criticism for these controversies.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee is serving as president of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival grand jury. It’s the first time a black person has been president of the jury. Lee’s movies “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “BlacKkKlansman” (2018) all had their world premieres at Cannes. “BlacKkKlansman” won the Grand Prix (second place) at Cannes in 2018. The movie went on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, an award that was shared by Lee and his fellow “BlacKkKlansman” screenplay co-writers Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz and Charlie Wachtel.
In an interview with Variety, Lee commented on the 2020 Cannes Film Festival being postponed: “I agree 100% with Thierry and the Cannes Film Festival. The world has changed and it’s changing every day. People are dying and France’s president has said, several times—I’m paraphrasing—‘We are at war.’ We are in a war-like time.”
Lee continued, “The stuff that we love has to take a back seat: movies, TV, sports, the NBA is a global sport, baseball. So many things have been postponed, and I agree with this move.”
Click here for an updated list of other corona virus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry.