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Quick guide: Cannes Film Festival

History and structure

Quick guides are concise explanations of topics or issues in the news.

The inaugural Cannes Film Festival was held in September 1939, but it was not held again until after World War II.

The event moved to April during the 1950s and the Palme d'Or prize was introduced in 1955.

The festival established itself during the 1960s, and has since secured its status as the world's most prestigious.

It is made up of seven major sections: In Competition, Out of Competition, Un Certain Regard, Cinefondation, Critics' Week, Directors' Fortnight and Marche du Film.

In Competition

Films screening In Competition are nominees for the Palme d'Or prize. About 20 feature films compete each year for the coveted prize. A win can have a huge impact at the box office.

Cannes festival logo
Cannes is the most prestigious film festival

The films make up the main part of the Official Selection which is screened in the Lumiere theatre.

Past winners of the Palme d'Or have included Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11) in 2004 and Roman Polanski (The Pianist) in 2002.

Out of Competition

A number of other feature films are also shown Out of Competition. These are usually films the Festival feels deserve a screening at Cannes, but cannot justify a position in the official programme.

Out of Competition films in the past have included world premieres, such as George Lucas's Star Wars Episode II.

Footage of works in progress from respected film-makers are also shown Out of Competition, such as Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York in 2002.

Festival side events

Un Certain Regard was set up in 1978 to act as a showcase for world cinema and to absorb several festival side events.

It is the main showcase section of the festival and there are no awards or prizes.

Cinefondation was added to the festival in 1998, and presents about 15 short films selected by the festival from around the world.

The Cinefondation has its own jury, and there are three awards for the best films in the section.

Critics and Directors

Critics' Week was set up in 1962 - making it the oldest of the festival side events - and is run by the Union of French Film Critics.

It has acted as a launch-pad for new film-makers from around the world, who compete for the prestigious Grand Prix.

Directors' Fortnight was established in 1968 to avoid the strikes which closed down the festival that year.

It is traditionally the most radical of the Cannes sub-sections, and is open to both feature-length and short films.

Marche Du Film

Wheelers and dealers of the film world flock to the Marche du Film - or The Film Market - which is the largest event of its kind in the world.

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At the market, films are bought and sold, and foreign rights are traded.

Films do not have to be selected to be in the market and it is open to anyone who pays the registration fee to buy or sell a film.

The Palais, which was built in 1983 to accommodate the ever-expanding festival, plays host to the event.

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