Cannes, France— On the 17th of May in the south of France, reclaiming its early-spring position counter to last year’s delayed show in July, the most prestigious film festival in the world, Cannes Film Festival, has returned for its historic 75th anniversary. Located in the breathtaking Mediterranean city of Cannes, I joined the likes of acclaimed film stars, fellow artists and creatives, media influencers, celebrated auteurs, and new or mid-career filmmakers, electrifying the air in anticipation of the events that lie ahead.

75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

First held in 1946 to recognize artistic achievement, Cannes Film Festival is a rendezvous for aesthetes, bolstering the creative talents and influence expressed in the art of motion pictures. Featuring a robust lineup of work from talented filmmakers from all over the globe, this year’s event did not disappoint, bouncing back from the effects of COVID-19 and the following restrictions that heavily impacted last year’s celebration.

As I made my way up the seemingly-endless red carpet to the venue’s entrance, posing for the sea of cameramen and women at the star-studded affair, I couldn’t help but feel a duality of emotions. While a mixture of excitement and nerves was a general sensation from all in attendance, I also sensed a collective call to action and focus on the many concerns facing the world today. A feeling later fortified as many filmmakers this year are speaking out regarding the adversity and oppression seen around the world, as expressed in their works.

As a contemporary artist myself, I resonate deeply with this form of expression, as I find it essential for those able to utilize their gifts, talents, and platforms to convey crucial messages while installing hope that a better world is achievable through collective action and understanding. 

Much like the ongoing conflicts witnessed today, many of the filmmakers featured at the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival tackled challenging subject matter ranging from misogyny, violence against women, migration and the growing refugee crisis, to climate change and its impact on the planet at large—an issue I hold close to my heart as I communicate this all-important topic in my environmentally centered artworks.  

‘EO’ 2022 by Director Jerzy Skolimowski

Turning to the films presented, my favorite feature, bizarre as it may sound, I found myself enthralled, viewing the world through the eyes of a—donkey. From the imaginative mind of 84-year-old Polish Director Jerzy Skolimowski, his film “EO” is truly a visually experimental piece of art, portraying how a beast encumbered throughout life perceives the world. With sorrowful eyes, EO, a gorgeous silver-grey donkey, faces a constant state of change. Similar to the highs and lows we as humans experience, Skolimowski beautifully portrays how the world of animals, used to maximization until deemed useless, is no different than that of our own. In this life, we encounter good and bad people, surrender to a myriad of emotions, experience pain, loss, fortune and misfortune, etc. 

I fell in love with Skolimowski’s ability to mirror humanity from the perspective of Earth’s fauna, depicting the disregard they are constantly subjected to. This film made me reflect on a famous quote from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein as he states: “If a lion could talk, we would not understand him.” I applaud Skolimowski’s effort to build a bridge over such misunderstanding. In my work as an artist and an ambassador to many organizations focused on the betterment of all life on this precious planet, I garner inspiration from those talented creatives who find unique ways of conveying such impactful messages. 

Actor Tom Cruise with his Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the Premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick”

Additionally, one of the biggest draws for the festival was the premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick,” starring renowned Actor Tom Cruise. In keeping with the movie’s theme, a squadron of French fighter jets took to the sky in honor of the European debut. Following its predecessor, the film received a standing ovation upon close at the Palais des Festivals, lasting what felt like hours (really around five or so minutes), demonstrating the immense respect held for Cruise and his work. Furthermore, Cruise received one of the 15 honorary Palme d’Or awards, the highest prize achievable at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Actress Toni Garrn (Left) and Artist Natalia Kapchuk (Right) with her newly acquired artwork by Mr. Brainwash
at the Cannes Luncheon and Charity Auction

Contrary to its name, Cannes Film Festival is not only about the art of cinema as the 12-day event featured a host of philanthropic endeavors as well. For instance, on the 20th of May, the Cannes Luncheon took place, cohosted by famous model, actor and founder of the Toni Garrn Foundation, Toni Garrn, and the organization Amend. At the luncheon, a charity auction was held raising over 130,000 euros with proceeds going to Amend’s programs for preventing road traffic injuries to children in Africa and the Toni Garrn Foundation, which supports education initiatives for girls in Africa.

When asked why her foundation is geared specifically toward young women, Garrn said this: 

“There are 30 million girls [in Africa] who are not going to school— if you educate those girls they will turn into educated mothers.” She adds, “There’s a saying in Africa: ‘If you educate a woman, you educate a village. If you educate a man, you educate a single person.’”

At the affair, various items were auctioned off like the exquisite limited edition Chopard Happy Love watch and a photo of David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor by British photographer Terry O’Neill. To extend my support, I had the honor of acquiring a remarkable piece of art from French street artist Mr. Brainwash whom I admire for his unique mixture of pop imagery with contemporary cultural icons.

Other notable events I attended during this year’s Cannes Film Festival season included various star-studded galas like that from Chopard and The Better World Fund (BWF). As a proud ambassador for the Better World Fund, I organized an intimate luncheon for the main members and ambassadors present in the French city, preceding the organization’s gala dinner which focused on the topic of Food, Health & Sustainability. Also, an auction was held for the Virtuosa Foundation which supports children’s hospitals in Poland. At the gala, many famous faces attended including one of the organization’s main patrons, Award-winning actress Sharon Stone who received the prestigious 2022 Better World Fund Lifetime Humanitarian Award.

Actress Sharon Stone photographed at The Better World Fund Gala

Though it may take some time for this distinguished event to return to its former glory (pre-Covid), the Cannes Film Festival is in a state of resurgence, blooming back to life while poised to be stronger than ever before! Though calmer with the removal of past programs, fresh and innovative programs made their debut like the newly created #TikTokShortFilm competition as social media giant, TikTok, signed on as an elite partner for this year’s event. I also noticed an influx of social media influencers present on the red carpet this year, more so than years prior, which proves Cannes commitment to adapting to the ever-changing developments of the 21st century.

Nonetheless, with the impressive showing this year had to offer, I am eager to see whats to come at the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2023. Till next time and Au revoir!