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Elegant boat parties are all a part of the Cannes experience. (Tibor Bognar / Corbis)

Day 3: Screenings and the Passions of Filmmakers

Documentaries on dolphin slaughter and reconciliation in Rwanda are contrasted by the glamorous party scene at Cannes

The next morning, the swirl of Cannes seems to open gradually around us in a kind of embrace of shared desperation and exaltation, and we find others just like us, people who have made films that matter to them and, they hope, to the world, also struggling to balance that tension.

In one of the grander theatres, we see a film that has actually been selected by the Festival itself. It's by a woman named Anne Aghion, who is making a resounding Cannes debut with an simple, solemn, and eloquent film about the achingly human and imperfect Rwandan efforts to build reconciliation out of tragedy.

We emerge from the theatre, immersed in the film's sad poetry, and there is a very pleasant publicist, handing out info sheets to distributors. She seems too nice and cheerful for what we have just seen, but without her this film would just fade away.

Then we go to a film called The Cove, showing, like ours, in the Marché. Like "Saving Luna," "The Cove" is about human care for cetaceans – in this case, dolphins. But it has been on a loftier track than our film. It won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, has been purchased for US theatrical distribution by one of the big studios, and is already selling well internationally. Yet this film, like Anne Aghion's, and, I hope, ours, is also passionate and moving, a story about a group of men and women who try to bring exposure – and an end – to the brutal annual slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in a cove in Japan.

After the screening we are invited to The Cove's party, on board an enormous yacht near the Palais. Suzanne and I are neophytes; this is the first time we have ever been to a party where you check your shoes at the gangplank.

But here the tension is still the same. It costs this yacht about 1,000 euros a day just to tie its stern to twenty feet of dock, and who knows the cost of this party, with its live music and elegant finger food? But this is how business is conducted for a film that is likely to be seen by millions, and to make millions. Because to make a film like this and to get it out there, you have to spend millions, and people on yachts are the ones who can make that happen.

The party is nice but surreal; we have come to the yacht with Rwanda in our hearts and our eyes still in tears from watching a blue bay in Japan turn red from the blood of innocents. How are we to recover from that with chat and canapés? Yet this party, and Cannes itself, seem just as necessary to the transmission of the message of these films as the cameras who recorded them and the people who risked freedom, health, fortune and lives to point those cameras and turn them on.

We walk home to The Stateroom, where we have a stash of apples and cereal we bought at a grocery store to save a few euros over restaurant food. In this business love and money are shackled together; without the money you cannot express the love. Although we fully believe that only one of those two things can keep us sane, tomorrow we will continue our search for the other.

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