Coronavirus Pandemic

Cannes film festival in May postponed

PARIS • The Cannes film festival, the world's largest, was forced to postpone this year's edition in May due to the spread of the corona-virus, the organisers said of the annual event on the French Riviera.

This follows weeks of speculation over whether the event, which draws thousands of film-makers, celebrities and executives to the city, would be held from May 12 to 23.

"At this time of global health crisis, our thoughts go to the victims of the Covid-19 and we express our solidarity with all of those who are fighting the disease," the statement said.

France has locked down the city with the aim of containing the spread of the coronavirus. About 11,000 cases have been diagnosed and over 370 people have died.

The organisers, who had announced American director Spike Lee as president of this year's jury, said several new dates were under consideration, including the end of June to the beginning of July.

It is not the first time the festival has been postponed. Its inaugural event in 1939 was cut short after the opening screening of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939) because of Germany's invasion of Poland the next day. The prizes were eventually awarded in 2002.

It was also interrupted in May 1968 amid student and labour protests sweeping across France.

The announcement is another blow to the film industry.

Beyond the star-studded glitzy screenings, production and distribution firms head to the Cote d'Azur to complete deals, while executives gather to represent the film industries of their countries.

According to the United States entertainment industry union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, about 120,000 people have already lost their jobs in Hollywood as a consequence of the pandemic.

The Cannes festival is the latest event in the entertainment industry to be postponed or cancelled. New York's Tribeca Film Festival was put back earlier this month as was the release of big-budget movies including Mulan and the latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die.

Music festivals Glastonbury and Coachella have been cancelled, and theatres in London and on Broadway have been closed.

"As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known," the Cannes organisers said.

South Korean film Parasite (2019) won Cannes' top Palme d'Or award last year and went on to triumph at the Oscars, becoming the first non-English feature to win Best Picture.

Applications for accreditation for the festival were up 10 per cent on last year before the coronavirus crisis, according to officials.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2020, with the headline Cannes film festival in May postponed. Subscribe