The figures speak for themselves, and taking the event digital as a result of the pandemic paid off: making use of online platforms to host screenings, conferences and virtual meetings, the Marché du Film brought together 10,000 participants from 122 countries to discuss around 3,500 completed films and upcoming projects, and view a total of 1,200 screenings. The biggest challenge was technical, and participating professionals applauded how reliable and easy the system was to use.
They also appreciated the high quality of the graphics and the experience-sharing opportunities offered by the Marché's various virtual 'venues': "We received lots of messages from professionals telling us that it felt just like being in Cannes," explained Jérôme Paillard, the Marché du Film's Delegate Director. "This proves that even virtual events are capable of creating moments where we can come and be together. Professionals were able to see the films, but they were also given the sense that they had seen them in good company! " Pierre Lescure, President of the Festival de Cannes, agreed and added: "The quantity and quality of exchanges made it feel as if we were there, mingling around the Marché's stands. Jérôme Paillard's teams and their innovative spirit and ability to adapt truly impressed me. I was delighted by the hard work and care they poured into ensuring their sites looked good and were user-friendly."
In terms of business, an understandable atmosphere of doubt reigned, as the industry was rattled by the consequences of the pandemic - and in some participating countries, cinemas hadn't even reopened. But business was fruitful, spurred on by two types of productions: Big-budget English-speaking projects on one hand, and the 2020 Official Selection films on the other. In the first category, auctions took off for films such as Armageddon Time by James Gray, a coming-of-age tale and an ode to friendship set in 1980s New York with a star-studded cast (Robert de Niro, Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaac, etc.), Enzo Ferrari by Michael Mann, a biopic of the eponymous Italian industrialist and racing driver, The Card Counter by Paul Schrader, about a professional player embodied by Oscar Isaac, and Spencer by Pablo Larraín, starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana.
The 2020 Official Selection films drew in their share of the limelight, too, with well-known filmmakers being sold in new territories: Eté 85 by François Ozon, Le Discours by Laurent Tirard, and Druk by Thomas Vinterberg. This unprecedented Marché du Film also allowed the Festival de Cannes to continue fostering emerging talent, despite the obstacles: this year's début films included Gagarine by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, a dreamlike account of council estate life, and Slalom by Charlène Favier, about sexual harassment in the world of sport, both of which were extremely well received by critics and buyers. The first was sold to Cohen Media Group (United States) and Curzon (United Kingdom).
The Marché du Film also hosted a number of discussions, panel talks and conferences that participants very much enjoyed following: A series of talks on film soundtracks in partnership with the Sacem, Shoot the Book !, an initiative aimed at encouraging book-to-screen adaptations, and showcases of projects from the Institut Français's La Fabrique Cinéma. A number of virtual round-table talks tackled pressing issues such as inclusion, the role played by Europe, and the coronavirus's long-term consequences on the industry, all in a bid to take the temperature and, weeks after the lockdown, to remember what it feels like to be part of a community of professionals, all with the same fears and hopes.
As Thierry Frémaux, the Festival de Cannes General Delegate, puts it: "With this online version of the Marché du Film, Cannes 2020 demonstrated the Festival's underlying dimension: its role as an organisation dedicated to industry professionals. The agility with which the Marché reinvented itself to adapt to this year's special circumstances was applauded by everyone from sales teams to buyers, whether in the office, at their villa, on the beach or on the other side of the world. This was a magnificent way of reuniting. It was also a first test run for the 2020 Official Selection films and for what the future might hold for Cannes 2021! "