How to TikTok your way to a prize at the Cannes Film Festival

Monday, May 23, 2022

Cannes, France: You no longer need millions of dollars and a distribution deal to win prizes at the Cannes Film Festival -- just a mobile phone and a bit of ingenuity will do.

Turning 75 this year, the world’s leading film gathering knew it needed a shot of youth and made TikTok an official sponsor. That has brought some of the video platform’s biggest stars to the French Riviera -- including Italian-Senegalese sensation Khaby Lame and his 139 million followers -- inevitably breaking the festival’s usual taboo against selfies on the red carpet.

TikTok has also sponsored a short film competition, with prizes awarded by a jury of film professionals, as well as Lame. "You might think that three minutes is short, but we really tried to judge them just as we would a film of 120 minutes," jury member and French director Camille Ducellier told an audience gathered for the prize-giving on Friday.

The top prize was shared by Japan’s Mabuta Motoki, with a simple but touching short about traditional wood carving, and Slovenian Matej Rimanic with a mini-ode to black-and-white silent comedies. However Cannes’ youngest competition did not go entirely smoothly.

The head of the jury, French-Cambodian director Rithy Panh briefly resigned the day before the award gathering, accusing TikTok of trying to influence the selections. "TikTok reversed course and gave us back our sovereignty," Panh told AFP, saying they had eventually been given the freedom to award "the films that we chose." The TikTok representatives seemed in a panic at the awards show, cutting off AFP from talking to the jury and preventing interviews with the winners.