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The Cannes International Film Festival is the place for filmmakers to step up their game

July 4, 2010

by Jacquie Taliaferro of LaHitz Media and Jackie Wright of Wright Enterprises

Jacquie Taliaferro speaks with Jimmy Jean-Louis in the HP Pavilion at Cannes 2010.
The 63rd Cannes International Film Festival opened with “Robin Hood” by Ridley Scott starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and William Hurt. This is the third big budget American film to open Cannes in five years. The other opening films were “Up” and “The DaVinci Code,” proving that the Cannes International Film Festival brings worldwide publicity to a project like no other event outside of the Olympics or World Cup.

With over 2,000 buyers and distributors and 5,000 plus journalists covering the festival, it is a springboard for launching a film or product. Star power is the heart of Cannes. Mick Jagger, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eva Longoria, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Woody Allen, Chris Tucker, Jennifer Hudson, Winnie Mandela, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Nia Peeples, Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro are among the luminaries in Cannes often playing the “Cannes PR Games”!

In recent years sales have been slow, especially for smaller budget indie films. Phil Gorn, CEO and president of Wonderphil, an independent film sales and production company, observed when we spoke at Cannes Marche du Film, “The economy is down along with attendance, which impacts sales, but the Cannes International Film Festival is always worth attending.”

John Michael Reefer, film producer and director, expressed another point: “The Cannes International Film Festival provides a larger opportunity for African Americans to bring their stories to the world marketplace expanding beyond the 500 or so theaters. In my experience, contrary to what we are told in the U.S., the world is ready to hear our stories of insiders, outsiders, the oppressed and the powerful. We have stories of comedy, drama, romance and fantasy like everyone else in the world.”

Reefer added, “I think it’s time for African Americans to stretch beyond their insecurities and up our game to speak more than one language so that we can connect with buyers, writers, directors and talent. In my experience in Cannes last year and this year, I found Arabic and French were the most helpful languages for me.”

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul receives the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ top prize, for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” Watch the trailer below.
Reefer’s film “US: A Love Story” about an interracial romance was in the Cannes Short Category last year and this year “Father’s Day” about the struggle of a young man to support his family outside of gang activity was in the Cannes Independent Film Festival. Reefer said his point for going to Cannes this year was to seek financing for his film “Seducing Leyla,” which is scheduled to begin production in Egypt in September.

This year’s winner of the Palme d’Or, or Golden Palm, Cannes’ highest prize, was “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a film by Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The Thai film industry had a big presence in Cannes. See the Thai Party in the Cannes coverage clip at www.Lahitz.com (click the TV icon).

There are over 60 countries and more than 15,000 films in the Cannes marketplace. Some films of note: Mexico: “Biutiful” by Alejandro Gonzalez Iarritu; Russia: “The Exodus” by Nikita Mithalkov; U.S.: “Life Outside the Pearl” by Haitian born director Johnny Desarmes; China: “Poetry by Lee Chang-dong”; Chad: “A Screaming Man” by Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, winner of the Cannes 2010 Jury Prize; and the U.K. with two films set for release next year, “One Love: The Remix” starring Idris Elba and Amonity Marley and “Precipice” by Julius Amedume with Haitian born actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, who plays the Haitian on the NBC show “Heroes.”

Chadian director Mahamet-Saley Haroun receives the Jury Prize at Cannes for his film “A Screaming Man” (“Un Homme Qui Crie”). Watch a clip from his film below.
LaHitz Media continues its theme from Cannes to keep Haitian relief in the forefront. In January LaHitz teamed with Wright Enterprises to organize a fundraiser for the NAACP involving actor and activist Danny Glover to help Haiti. The event was titled “Soundtrack for a Revolution: Oscar Nomination Hopeful Celebration” in honor of Glover, the executive producer of the film.

A short clip of Cannes coverage begins with Jimmy Jean-Louis speaking to Jacquie Taliaferro about “Hollywood Unites for Haiti.” With respect to many of the larger relief agencies, LaHitz Media along with Wright Enterprises promotes organizations such as Jimmy Jean-Louis’ Hollywood Unites for Haiti, SAG-AFTRA member Dr. Joseph Marcel-St. Louis Demertine’s organization, ServiMed Haiti, HUP Helping Haiti Foundation, Dr. Kenya Numan’s Stepping Together, Inc. Dr. Numan spoke at LaHitz’s event just days after the Haitian Earthquake to garner public support. Dr. Ramona Tascoe, a board member of the Northern California Interreligious Council, is slated as is Dr. Numan to return to Haiti.

LaHitz believes the entertainment industry should do more when it comes to philanthropy. Those interested in helping grassroots efforts for Haiti should follow the links, read about what is happening and donate to the cause: Hollywood Unites for Haiti, ServiMed Haiti, HUP Helping Haiti Foundation and Stepping Together.

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