Cannes: Poignant cinema, female empowerment, and what to know if you’re in town

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Right this moment, we wish we were in Cannes. The French Riviera is currently even more glamorous than usual as the annual film festival in its 71st year takes up residence.

Founded in 1946, the international festival celebrates all genres of film as they compete for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at Cannes.

Female Empowerment: The films that have caused a stir


Rafiki tells the story of two young girls Kena and Ziki, the daughters of rival politicians in Kenya. They fall in love, despite homosexuality being punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The film was banned in Kenya with the Kenya Film Classification Board explaining that the ban was due to a ‘homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans.’ The film was premiered in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard category, which celebrates non-traditional stories, to a standing ovation.

Festival de Cannes official

Female African writer and director Wanuri Kahiu said ‘While filming, we challenged deep-rooted cynicism about same-sex relations among the actors, crew and continue to do so with friends, relatives, and society at large. The most difficult part was starting the conversations and asking others to join in…Over the past 5 years of developing this film, we have seen worrying developments in the anti-LGBT climate in East Africa.’

Girls of the Sun

Also received by a standing ovation (ten minutes) Eva Husson’s female empowerment war film Girls of the Sun is a hopeful story of resistance and sisterhood. Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani plays Bahar, the leader of an all-female group of Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters, preparing to take back their town from extremists.

Maneki Films / Knatia (Juda) Psuturi

This is the story inspired by true events, of Yazidi women who were kidnapped, raped, and sold into slavery and then escaped to join the Kurdish army. They rise above the men who tortured them, reversing the roles to become the pursuers, and the men the pursued.

This film is a tribute to women everywhere.

Cannes news

A united front

On Saturday, after the premiere of Girls of the Sun, President of the Cannes Film Festival jury Cate Blanchett, made up by our very own beauty editor Mary Greenwell, marched arm in arm with 82 female actors, producers and directors, including Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart down the red carpet to demand equal pay and an end to sexual harassment.

‘We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so they can best reflect the world in which we live,’ announced Blanchett, ‘calling for ‘a world that allows all of us, in front and behind the camera, to thrive shoulder to shoulder without male colleagues.’

Stepping Out

Kristen Stewart ditched her Louboutins on the red carpet to resist the festival’s strict dress code that states women must wear heels. At the 2015 Cannes festival, several women were banned from screenings for daring to wear flats. ‘If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me to either.’

Direct Response

This year the film institute has set up an anti-sexual harassment hotline following the string of accusations against disgraced director Harvey Weinstein. In November 2017 a group of the 80 women who originally accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, led by actress Asia Argento, released a list of over 100 alleged instances of sexual abuse by Weinstein that date from 1980 to 2015, including 18 allegations of rape.

French equality minister Marlène Schiappa said ‘We have set up a partnership with the Cannes film festival to tackle sexual harassment’. Attendees to the festival will all be warned about inappropriate behavior prior to entering the festival. She said; ‘One of the rapes that Harvey Weinstein is accused of happened at Cannes, and so the festival cannot not act.’

Presumably, Schiappa’s comments are referring to the accusation of rape against Weinstein by Asia Argento, which she claims took place during the 1997 festival.

Planning a trip to Cannes?

Forgetting about the poignancy and politics of cinema for a moment, if you’re planning to visit Cannes, here are our best picks to stay, eat and enjoy.

Stay at…

The historic Carlton Cannes Hotel

The 343 room luxury hotel was built in 1911 and serves as a home away from home to many of the stars of the festival. The iconic building was featured in Elton John’s video for his 1983 hit ‘I’m Still Standing’ as well as the central location for Alfred Hitchcock’s film To Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. In 1955 Kelly also arranged a photo shoot at the hotel with Prince Rainier III of Monaco who she then married a year later.

A little bit of extra trivia for you, on July 28, 2013, a thief stole, $137 million worth of jewels from the hotel safe in a daylight robbery and the thief was never caught!

Eat at…

The two-Michelin star restaurant La Palme d’Or

La Palme d’Or

Sun yourself and spot a celeb in Palme d’Or situated in the beautiful art deco building that is Hotel Martinez. Named after the prestigious Canne film festival award the La Palme d’Or, every July the restaurant puts on a special menu for the festival, inspired by the world of cinema. Otherwise, enjoy a whole turbot for two on the stunning terrace, cooked on the bone, coated with a fig leaf.

Le Moulin de Mougins

Continuing the Michelin starred theme, head to Le Moulin des Mougins. Specialising in seafood, and serving some of the biggest names in town, hello Elton John, Le Moulin des Mougins, is a Cannes staple.

Le Baoli

Right on the edge of the Riviera, Le Baoli is a favourite haunt to many attendees of the film festival. Specialising in Asian food, the decor is also Asian themed as guests enter through huge temple like doors to see an Aladdin’s cave of Balinese style sofas, lamps, and candlelit tables, with a huge veranda facing out on to a garden of palm trees, perfect for balmy summer evenings.


Expect Cambodian classic Loc Lac or Yakitori Chicken Skewers, as well as stunning cocktails. The price is high but you’ll be feeling like a VIP in no time.

Drink at…

Le 360


Le 360, located on the roof of the Radisson Blu Hotel, is a truly stunning place to sip twilight cocktails, with panoramic views of the breathtaking Lerins Islands, Esterel Massif mountain range, and the bay of Cannes. Try the 360 Lemonade, with 23-year-old rum, thyme-infused honey, lime and fresh grapefruit juice. Cocktails are about £20 but that view, that view.


With indoor foliage, this stylish and innovative bar and restaurant, cabaret spot, and club is ‘a fusion of venue and divine soul’, even if the owners do say so themselves. The expert mixologists are constantly experimenting with flavour and texture, sip on a Red Lips Daiquiri with Bacardi, homegrown strawberries, fresh lime, sugar and homemade lemongrass foam. Things can get crazy here on the weekends, you have been warned.  

Don’t miss…

Get lost in the back streets 

Cannes wasn’t always overrun with the rich, it was once a small village where fish, rather and films were the order of the day and inhabitants mainly lived on Suquet Hill. Le Suquet is the old town, with 400-year-old houses, a 5-minute walk from the beach, and restaurants serving local food.

Climb up the hill for stunning views of the bay and find a museum in a castle, Musee de la Castre, filled with local artifacts like a flute made out of a local femur, to fulfill your cultural quota.

Escape to an island

As you step off the boat on the shores of the biggest of the Lérins Islands, Sainte-Marguerite, you are greeted by the heavenly smell of pine and eucalyptus.

Sainte-Marguerite, Cannes Tourist Office

At only 900 meters across the island is home to a few quaint but pricey restaurants, but the best bet by far is to pack your own picnic, sit on the beach and go for a dip in the azure blue waters and discover the hidden coves.  

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