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Cannes was different then, it was more about seeing films, says Antonia Nava

Producer and Cannes veteran Antonia Nava on the changing face of the festival

Photographers at the ‘70th Anniversary’ ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. Photo:
Photographers at the ‘70th Anniversary’ ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. Photo:

As the former managing director of international production with Filmmax, Antonia Nava has produced films like The Machinist and Transsiberian. She is now an independent producer with her own label, Neo Art. A few years ago, Endless Night, her co-production with Juliette Binoche in the lead, opened the Berlin film festival.

Nava is also a Cannes veteran. We met her during the ongoing 70th edition and asked her about her experience of the festival over the years. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What was the Cannes Film Festival like when you first visited?

The first time I came to Cannes it was, let me see...I think it was 1987. I was a young girl, working for a film festival back in my home town: the Gijon Film Festival.

Cannes was very different then, it was much more about seeing films. There weren’t so many venues. We were nowhere near having cellphones then, so we would make all the appointments in advance. A call meant going to a telephone box. When you came to your hotel, you would get envelopes with message chits. The number of meetings was fewer, so no one was stood up.

How have things changed over the years?

If you look at pictures of the buildings then, you will see all these film posters and great art work on them. This doesn’t happen anymore. Now there are so many neon boards. It’s like the rest of the world. The Palais still has it a bit. But the decoration of the place has changed. The way the hotels and the streets look has changed.

Producer and Cannes veteran Antonia Nava.

Any other differences from your earlier visits to the festival?

You used to be served a good gin and tonic then, now it’s plastic-tasting. The dresses were really glamourous then. Now you have bad shoes. Silk has given way to synthetic material.

Back then, on the way back at night, we’d take off our sandals and walk along the Croisette barefoot. I always remember getting my first summer blisters at Cannes.

You would be able to go to the Palais in high heels, take them off, take out your flip flops, and hide the shoes under a plant or tree and use them when needed. Can you imagine if you did that now? It would be mistaken for a bomb.

Or one of us would have a big bag and put all our flip flops in, and carry all 20 pairs. We would jump into them when we got tired of walking in high heels.

And the parties, I think they had a sense of treating the clients very well. The parties are still there, but the feeling of celebration is going away.

What would you like to see happen at future editions of the festival?

I hope the market gets a little more settled. Right now there are more companies than films. There are so many company stalls that are empty. It’s terrible to see empty offices and stalls. People ask me for meetings and I go and see that there is no one there.

Yesterday, at a Catalan party, I was saying, why don’t we all get together and have one Palais of Latin countries? There are so many national representatives with their films, but at the same time, it is so diluted. The space needs to accommodate needs of the consumers. Why split from each other when you can congregate?

Is there a particular kind of cinema that’s now trending at Cannes?

The early 2000s were about show business, films with spectacle. Now it’s back to a more traditional competition of auteurs. Again, finally, you can hear people say that they want to see a Haneke, a Ozon, a Lanthimos, a Sofia Coppola. No one says the title of the films, they go for the directors.

How do you feel about the films this year?

There are fab films this year. The Killing of a Sacred Deer was awesome. I saw it this morning—it’s a very disturbing film.

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