Days 7 to 12: A Cannes Farewell | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian

Days 7 to 12: A Cannes Farewell

As Michael Parfit bids goodbye to the Cannes Film Festival, there is good news for Luna from the Canary Islands

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Perhaps it's fitting that while I've been here, "Saving Luna" was almost turned into a complex art film.

While I've been trying to keep up with the demand for preview DVDs of our film at Cannes, I thought that Suzanne was having easy fun showing "Saving Luna" at the International Ecological and Nature Film Festival of the Canary Islands. Wrong.

It turned out that we accidentally sent two different versions of the film's script to the festival for subtitles—which get projected on the screen separately at festivals like this one. So with only four hours before the film was scheduled to show, Suzanne discovered at the theater that although the Spanish subtitles were all ready to go, they were timed wrong and wouldn't match the film.

"Saving Luna" is a straightforward storytelling kind of film, with a clear narrative that makes the funny, unexpected story of the little whale's life accessible to all ages. This subtitle situation would have changed that.

It's possible some reviewers might have approved. After over a week at Cannes, I could imagine it well: "Challenging . . . difficult . . . an interwoven, disturbing clash of words and images that leads to profound perplexity."

Suzanne dashed back to her hotel room for a fresh copy of the script. Wearing flip-flops in the sub-tropical warmth, she ran through crowds of elderly German, Spanish, and Finnish tourists.

"As I was squeezing around people," she wrote me later, "huffing and puffing 'excuse me' in as many languages as I could remember, I was just thankful that there were very few children there for me to injure."

She grabbed her laptop and flip-flopped back to the theater. With only minutes to spare, she and a careful expert named Carlos put all the subtitles in what they thought were the right places. As the big crowd in the theater settled down to watch, Suzanne hoped for the best.

Back at Cannes, the festival's second week is ending. The film market is winding down. Plywood emerges from the fraying glitz. By Friday at our agent's booth the posters are gone and the whole enterprise is reduced a pile of cardboard boxes ready to be shipped home.

It has not been the best of years. Rob Straight, our agent here, started coming to the Cannes Film Festival more than 30 years ago, when the market for video tapes for purchase and rental first took off, and today he's seeing the opposite trend. Digital piracy and lower-profit-margin video-on-demand distribution systems are drying up markets for DVDs. The Wall Street Journal quotes one film executive as saying that a stroll through the Marché is like walking among tumbleweeds.

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