Film Festivals are held throughout the year in cities such as Berlin, Venice and Toronto. From the 13th to 24th May 2009, the small resort  of Cannes on the French Riviera becomes the epicentre of the World’s Film Industry. Over 200,000 film makers, actors, A-List celebrities , the Paparazzi and wannabee, bikini-clad starlets hit the town for the Cannes International Film Festival.

Originally held in Venice, the Cannes Film Festival’s modern home is the result of a spat between the French and Italian Governments, in 1938. A French film, acknowledged to be the favourite for the top prize, The Mussolini Cup, was awarded to a German entry. The French withdrew and the US and UK jury members resigned. Eventually,the French Government agreed to underwrite an alternative festival and chose Cannes over Biarritz. The Festival reappeared as the Festival International du Film in 1946. Today, it ranks alongside the Academy Awards (Oscars) Ceremony.

At Cannes, in the In Competition, the best film is awarded the top prize, a gold statuette, The Palme d’Or. Within the festival there are other official and non-official, fringe competitions and screenings.

Hors Competition (Out of Competition) screens films that have not met the criteria for full entry. Cinefondation Competition was added in 1998 for short-mediumlength films made in film schools. Cannes Classics, introduced in 2004, showcases restored classics, tributes to foreign cinema or rediscovered footage from days gone by. Tous les Cinemas du Monde presents daily programmes of films selected from countries which historically have had a low cinema output.Quinzaine des Realisateurs (Directors Fortnight,) presents films free from politics and censorship. Marche du Film (Film Market)  is a trade show for the buyers and sellers, attracting over 10,000 industry people. There are also special programmes for Producers and Short Film Makers.

Unlike most other festivals, most events are reserved for film industry professionals and the Press and require prior accreditation. Admission to venues is strictly controlled. Cinephiles Accreditation allows residents of Cannes to see films shown in the fringe events.  All is not lost as there is the Cinema du Plage which is an outdoor, large screen set up on Plage Mace. Tickets – first come, first served -are available at the Cannes Tourism Office.

For tourists the favourite activity is celebrity spotting. The prime spot is the red carpet at the entrance of  The Palais des Congres.  The golden rule is get there very early with the  best spot being on the road looking up the steps, where you will not be submerged by the hordes of press photographers. Lobbies of the luxury hotels such as The Carlton, Martinez and Miramar are good, if you can get in!  Alternatively, sit at a cafe on La Croisette, on the Promenade, and sip your cafe au lait and watch the film world go by. You may also be able to solicit a ticket from the Accredited Ones who find it impossible to use all their invitations and may have been up all night!

The best time to visit depends on your interests. The first weekend is manic while the festival is quieter on the second weekend. The latter may be the time for you to see something of Cannes  its self.

La Croisetteis the waterfront boulevard with its cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Great for star and exotic car watching. Le Suquet is The Old Town.  The 12th century Tour de Mont Chevalier, the ramparts and the Church of Notre Dame de L’Esperance provide its medieval flavour.

Cannes is great for shoppers, looking for the chic and expensive. Rue d’Antibes, Boulevard de La Croisette and the Zone Pietonne (Walking Street) will satisfy all. Forville is the daily, covered market which becomes a Marche Brocante- a Flea Market-on Mondays. The many museums include The International Perfume Museum.

Unless you have an executive jet, helicopter or luxury motor yacht, your best bet is to travel from Paris to Nice using the superb Train Grande Vitesse (TGV) – hopefully with discounted tickets. Cannes is then only 15 miles from Nice.

Even if you have deep pockets you are unlikely to obtain a hotel room in central Cannes. A cheaper alternative is to stay in nearby Antibes or for the brave rent a mobile home or pitch your tent on a site such as Camping Parc Bellevue.

Whether you are a film buff or tourist, the Cannes International Film Festival is a unique event blessed with great weather on the beautiful French Riviera.