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Published on May 18, 2010
"The Festival is an apolitical no-man's-land, a microcosm of what the world would be like if people could contact each other directly and speak the same language." Jean Cocteau
The Festival International du Film was supposed to begin in Cannes in 1939, but due to the war, the launch date was put off. Finally, on 20 September 1946 the Festival de Cannes opened its doors, the first great international cultural event of the post-war period.
The Festival was organised as a non-profit organisation, managed by a Board of Directors and was to become "state-approved" as in 1972.
It has taken place every year - with the exception of 1948 and 1950 - first in the month of September, then in May as of 1952. After years of "Grand Prix", the Palme d'Or was created in 1955.
New sections were equally created in parallel to the official organisation: the International Critics' Week (1962) and the Directors' Fortnight (1969) are effectively totally independent.
At the outset, the Festival principally resembled a tourist and social event. It professionalised with the creation in 1959 of a Marché du Film which began with a few dozen projections and a single screening room. Today, it draws more than 10,000 buyers and sellers from around the world. The Village international was created in 2000 around the Palais des Festivals to enable numerous countries to support their producers and film industry. The Producers Network, which has since 2004 enabled producers from around the globe to come together on their projects. The same year, the Short Film Corner, a welcome and promotional platform for shorts, was created.
One measure marked a historic date in the history of the Festival: in 1972, it became the sole decision-maker for film selection. Previously, only the films designated by their countries of origin could make such decisions.
In 1978, upon the initiative of Gilles Jacob, then General Delegate, the Caméra d'Or prize was created to be awarded to the best first film presented in any of the three selections. The same year, the selection Un Certain Regard, was formed.
In 1998, Gilles Jacob set up the Cinéfondation, a selection of short and medium-length motion pictures from film schools around the world, whose goal is to discover and promote new talent. Henceforth, over 1,000 films per year from every continent are sent to the Festival de Cannes in the hope of being selected.
The Cinéfondation opened in the fall of 2000 the Residence in Paris to provide young filmmakers with the chance of developing their projects outside their countries of origin. In 2005, the Atelier was launched with some twenty projects selected to enable directors to complete their financing plans within the privileged context of the event.
In 2000, Gilles Jacob was elected President by the members of the Board of Directors, succeeding Pierre Viot, who held this position since 1985 and became in turn President of the Cinéfondation. In 2001, Gilles Jacob was supported in his position by Veronica Cayla, General Manager, and Thierry Frémaux, Artistic Delegate.
In September 2005, Gilles Jacob appointed Catherine Démier to the post of General Director of the Festival, replacing Véronique Cayla, named General Manager of the National Cinema Centre (CNC).
In July 2007, upon Gilles Jacob's proposal, the Board of Directors appointed Thierry Frémaux General Delegate of the Festival, succeeding to Robert Favre-Le Bret, Maurice Bessy and Gilles Jacob.
In 2007, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival de Cannes, Gilles Jacob invited 33 of the greatest filmmakers in the entire world to take part in the anniversary film To Each His Cinema, by directing in 3 minutes each, a short based on the theme of the motion-picture theatre.
The poster of the 60th Festival revealed the "new jumpology" project, introduced in 2006 in association with the Magnum press agency: to honour the dynamism of creation, a hundred artists responded to the Festival's request to come before the lens of photographer Alex Majoli. From November to February 2007, the "One Jump!" exhibit presented, in its world premiere at Pinacothèque de Paris, a selection of 55 of these works representing the "taking off" of celebrities of international renown.