2:30 pm on 14 June 2014
A gentle drizzle… The art deco buildings, rising against a grey sky. Wet empty chairs with dripping umbrellas… The occasional black Masserati lumbering along the croisette… I was walking the promenade hunting memories of a fortnight spent nine years ago. The road by the sea looked the same. But for a few souvenir and gelato shops that have melted away into the past relenting to large designer shop facades.
‘Cannes Lions – A festival of creativity’ the white board plastered across the face of the Palais, declared. What was I looking for? George Lucas’ yacht moored by the marina? Emir Kusturika dancing with his beer mug by the beach? Morgan Freeman’s motorcade flanked by Storm Troopers? I remembered, I was looking for a small toy shop sitting across the road from an old sushi bar in a forgotten lane. I hoped it hasn’t been banished to the past like the stores on the croisette. It wasn’t. A bit wet and musty. But still there.
I walk back to my hotel. Memories play funny games, I muse looking at the big lampshade hanging by a wire on a pulley by my bed. A reflection of the room spreads across three mirrors broken into the shape of a cubist painting. I fall asleep.
8:00 am on 15 June 2014
Ten groggy judges nibble at their breakfast at the perfectly manicured coffee shop of the Grand. A few glasses of juice and an occasional ‘hello’ float across the room. I smell a cup of hot coffee and chocolate croissants in an empty bakery. Something we would quickly grab before running to catch a movie at the Debussy auditorium. But memories can wait. Andre and his bunch of umbrellas sitting in the lobby won’t.
We troop into the building I remembered as “Marche du film”. End of memories and the beginning of judging…the big black room with black furniture and a white screen stare at me as the doors slam shut. Terry Savage takes the floor. ‘Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Cannes Lions 2014…’. A practiced drawl probably with a hint of boredom descends into the dark room as the projector shines on his glasses. We are reminded judges are without nationality, devoid of bias, quick on the button and ruthless.
“Sorry sir if you want to watch films in the market you will need your market pass and business card”. A voice reached out from the past. No time for memories… There are 348 films to be watched in the day out of a mere 2700!
1:45 pm on 15 June 2014
Lunch by the sea at the sprawling open-air cafeteria perched on the Palais. Everyone except Brian the jury president has lost their appetite. It isn’t because of lack of judging acumen but because of an apparent uniformity in the lack of brilliance that one saw in the films shown. Not that the films, rather directorial efforts were not genuine. The fact that every worthy film lacked the spark that would eke out winners clearly, bothered us no end. Am probably bitten by morality too. Five seconds to judge whether a film screened at the haloed creativity festival is to be banished or bestowed with greatness!
Why does everyone have to look like Nike? Or talk like Chrysler? Or behave like the Guardian?
Learnings for the stout little Indian sitting in the panel? Quite a bit. But I would rather talk about that once the day is over.
8:30 pm on 15 June 2014
The rains have stopped. It lingers as a dull sheen on the road and shop awnings. Colours, laughter, blue eyes and store-fronts are glittering in the eight o’clock sun. I am exhausted to the bottom of my soul.
We hunted high and low for a voice and never found anything satisfactory. A voice that made the Philips Carousel or Honda’s ‘Dreams’ stand out in a crowd. A voice unique and memorable, vibrant and distinct – in thought and execution.
Never imagined quality work could be so boring.
A few Indian entries came up. Not lacking in idea but then I am here to judge craft and not ideas. Sadly, did not find much of it in films we have put up for the Lions.
My learnings? A few. Most importantly we have fallen back. Quite a few years. We need to pull us up and revisit the way we lens our shots, grade them and cut them. The world has moved on. Deviant colour correction is passé, flares and open blacks are the past. High key lighting and burning highlights is not something one cares much about anymore.
Another observation. Let’s stop believing poverty and snake charmers sell us better. It is the idea which rules, yet. Thankfully.
There are some more thoughts that I would like to talk about. But I would like to see a bit more and then enunciate.
(QED’s Abhijit Chaudhari, or Dadu as he is fondly known, is on the Film Craft jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2014.)