Join the Film Lover’s Alternative Cannes Festival (At a Distance): Here’s Our Complete Watch-from-Home Cannes Programme

Cannes 2020: Limitations creates opportunity, also in the age of the corona virus and covid-19 disease. From 12 to 23 May 2020 we were supposed to be in Cannes and do our usual coverage on new film art from the world’s most important film festival. But in 2020 nothing is normal, so if we cannot go to Cannes – what if Cannes comes to us? So, we got an idea and here’s the result: Montages is hereby presenting this year’s alternative Cannes official selection – complete with programming in all feature film sections – which can be experienced at a safe distance, and function as a celebration of the history of the Cannes festival.

As most of our readers will have noticed, the corona virus crisis has resulted in the cancellation of the original dates of this year’s Cannes festival in the middle of May, and even though the always passionately enthusiastic festival director Thierry Frémaux still keeps the door open for organising the festival in late summer (or early fall), the forecast is getting worse day by day.

So the annual high point of our work as film critics will very likely vanish from the calendar this year. As a small compensation, however, we have decided to refuse to give up our reservation in the calendar for Cannes in May, by organising our own Cannes festival – curated and programmed with films from the festival’s rich archive, spanning all the way back to 1939.

The 2020 edition will be the first cancelled Cannes festival since 1968 (when the student revolt in France shut its doors), and this unfortunate intermission will give us a fortunate opportunity to spend the same time looking back at its history. Which film won the Palme d’Or in 1955? What did the Competition look like in the legendary film year of 1974? Has the Critics’ Week actually succeeded in introducing to world its future masters? And with a contemporary gaze, might we discover that the Directors’ Fortnight selection in some years has surpassed the Competition programme?

So, what do we mean by creating an alternative festival programme? Below we will explain how we have built this selection, which restrictions we have implemented, and what we hope to discover along the way. (Then the entire programme will follow, section by section.)


For our Cannes 2020 programme we have sought to compose as authentic a selection as possible in the various sections, both as regards the number of films and geographical diversity. Our competition programme only consists of titles that have either won the Palme d’Or, Grand Prix or the Jury Prize (thus the first, second and third prize). Our programme for the sections Out of Competition, Un certain regard, Directors’ Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) and the Critics’ Week (Semaine de la critique) consists of films that premiered in these sections originally.

But how did we make the selection? We established a simple, clear rule: in order to maintain the feeling of precisely being on a journey of discovery during the festival – because almost all Cannes screenings are world premieres – we have exclusively programmed films that none of the Montages editors (who according to our tradition are leading our Cannes coverage) have seen previously. (This goes for the selection of the Competition, Out of Competition, Un certain regard, Directors’ Fortnight and the Critics’ Week.)

To us this creates a golden opportunity to plug some big holes in film history (everyone has some of those), but this rule has also forced us, by and large, to exclude obvious Cannes film classics and instead move towards the outskirts (and back to early times). There we have discovered rarities by directors like Catherine Breillat, Jean-Marie Straub, Bernardo Bertolucci and none other than Susan Sontag. The directorial debuts of regular Bergman collaborators Sven Nykvist, Gunnel Lindblom and Max von Sydow. The first film from Anthony Scott (aka Tony Scott), made ten years before his Hollywood breakthrough. Master cinematographer Christopher Doyle‘s feature film from Hong Kong/China, which he also wrote. Award-winning African classics. Controversial cult animation film. The Makhmalbaf Family.

In addition to all of these opportunities for discovery, in the section Cannes Classics – the festival’s “cinematheque” – we have allowed ourselves to also programme titles we have seen before. Furthermore, we have decided that the selections shall only contain one film per director, except for Cannes Classics.

From Chen Kaige’s “Farewell, My Concubine” (1993, screening in Cannes Classics).


Our alternative Cannes programme is also a festival that we hope many of our readers and podcast listeners would want to join – which simply means to be watching films (at home) from the festival programme together with us, in the period from 12 to 23 May.

So it is important that the films in the selection is possible to get hold of and watch – both for ourselves (obviously) and for everyone wanting to join and follow our festival coverage. Therefore we have researched each film’s availability (every country is different in this aspect, our outlook is from Norway), either to buy in a physical format (DVD or Blu-ray), rent/buy for digital screenings (VOD/streaming), loan from a local library, or in some cases (making use of VPN technology) subscribing to international streaming services.

So, links to locations for buying and watching the films are provided in the Norwegian version of this article, but excluded here – simply because readers of this article might reside in many different countries, and access to films is different depending on the location. But a search for a given film title through Amazon, eBay, JustWatch (for digital availability) or your local supplier, will surely give some results.

“But it will cost me several hundred Norwegian kroner [$40/€30] per film if I have to buy X from Criterion, Y from Arrow and get Z from eBay?” Yes, real access to film culture is not always “one click away”, and yes, participating at the Cannes Film Festival is expensive (travel, accommodation and accreditation for a week cost more than $1500/€1000), and compared to that, our alternative Cannes festival is far less expensive.

Moreover, it is impossible to watch the entirety of films screening during an actual Cannes festival, and it is the same here – our selection is a menu. Anyway, our objective is not completism, but a floating chaos filled by some planned and some accidental film choices and experiences. Like at every film festival!

Our coverage will be in Norwegian at Montages, mainly in daily podcast episodes, but hopefully we will publish some English language coverage here at Montages International Edition as well. Time will tell.

Now, if you think that “Montages are going to pretend that they are in Cannes”, that assumption is entirely correct! The pandemic crisis is very serious, so if we can’t get out in the world, we are going to drag it into our own living room – with the help of imagination and playfulness.


From “Girlfight” (2000, Cannes Classics) and “Beyond Sorrow, Beyond Pain” (Smärtgränsen, 1983, Critics’ Week).


Opening film

In 1939 the Cannes festival was supposed to be held for the first time, but after merely one screening on 31 August, the festival was put on hold because of the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September. When France declared war on Germany on 3 September, it was only natural to cancel the festival. Our opening film is thus the first film ever shown at the Cannes festival.



The main competition has been the heart of Cannes right from the start. The festival’s first prize was originally named Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, but became known as the Palme d’Or from 1955 until 1964, when the name reverted to Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, until it returned again to Palme d’Or from 1974. Below we will call the festival’s first prize the Palme d’Or regardless of the year, and in addition to selecting earlier winners of that prize, we will also include titles from winners of the second prize (Grand Prix) and the third prize (the Jury Prize).


Film de clôture (Closing Film)

Our alternative Closing Film selection is presented out of competition, true to tradition, but here with a historical twist: Hungarian director Miklós Jancsó was supposed be in competition at Cannes in 1968 with as many as two films, but as mentioned above the festival was cancelled that year – and many of the competition films were never shown. As a tribute to a film that missed out being screened in Cannes, we have programmed the least known of Jancsó’s titles, The Confrontation (which did not premiere until 1969 since the release was postponed), as a closing film.


From “Scarecrow” (1973) and “Arabian Nights” (1974), both in Competition.


Un certain regard

This important side section of the official festival programme has been a part of Cannes since 1978. Our selection below is taken from all the films shown there, and thus it not based on the awards presented by the Un certain regard jury each year.

From “Down to Earth” (1994) and “Fruitvale Station” (2013) – both screening in Un certain regard.


Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight)

Directors’ Fortnight is run by the French film directors association and is an independent side section of the official Cannes programme. It started in 1969 – as a reaction to the 1968 student revolt.

From “Corpo Celeste” (2011) and “Tetro” (2009) – both screening in Directors’ Fortnight.


Semaine de la Critique (The Critics’ Week)

The Critics’ Week in Cannes was established in 1962, and like Directors’ Fortnight, it is organised independently of the official programme. This side section is run by the organisation of French film critics, and is only showing works by first or second time directors.

From “Boy Meets Girl” (1984) and “The Scent of Green Papaya” (1993) – both screening in Critics’ Week.

Out of Competition

From “Girl 6” (1996) and “Cecil B. Demented” (2000) – both screening Out of Competition.

Cannes Classics

From “The Apple” (1998) og “Dogville” (2003) – both screening in Cannes Classics.


Séances de Minuit (Midnight Screenings)


Cinéma de la Plage

As a reinterpretation of the section called Cinéma de la Plage – outdoors beach screenings in Cannes of popular films – we have decided that our alternative programme will consist of three films that have caused scandals and been savaged by critics, in connection with their Cannes premieres. Thus three enfant terribles:


“Southland Tales” (2006) – screening at Cinéma de la Plage.


We wish everyone a great, alternative Cannes festival – we’ll see you at the virtual Croisette from 12 to 23 May.

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