Cannes in a Van parks itself amid the movie glitz

AP News
Posted: May 18, 2011 10:13 AM
Cannes in a Van parks itself amid the movie glitz

Many participants arrives in Cannes by plane, by yacht, or even by helicopter. Andy Greenhouse arrives in a van, after a 650-mile drive and an overnight stop at a McDonalds parking lot.

Greenhouse is the founder of Cannes in a Van, a tiny mobile film festival operating out of the back of a Ford Transit van parked on Cannes' beachfront boulevard.

The antithesis of the glitz of the Cannes Film Festival red-carpet premieres, Cannes in a Van offers spectators a folding chair, a glass of cheap wine and a variety of short films, from student efforts to prize winners.

Greenhouse says it was "an idea dreamt up in a drunken evening" that has become an annual journey since 2007.

"People are always surprised we're back," he said.

Greenhouse, a 38-year-old magazine art director with a passion for movies, makes the 650-mile (1,000-kilometer) drive from his home in London with a small band of helpers _ stopping en route to rest at a McDonalds. He jokes that the fast food chain is "our unofficial sponsor."

The group stays on a campsite and parks the van nightly along the Croisette, a long seafront avenue teeming with bumper-to-bumper traffic, tuxedo-clad moviegoers and meandering star-spotters.

Greenhouse says Cannes in a Van's audience consists of curious passers-by and "people who want to sit down somewhere."

It draws its lineup from short film festivals and submissions by student and independent filmmakers. The directors are grateful for the exposure, even if it is to a handful of people at a time.

"I've had worse screenings in cinemas," said British writer-director Mike Rymer, whose work has been screened by Cannes in a Van. He says it is a welcome counterpoint to the exclusive Cannes festival, which runs through Sunday.

"Cannes is a private festival, but it takes over the whole of the town," Rymer said. "This is another place where people can see films."

Greenhouse's biggest coup was giving environmental cautionary tale "The Age of Stupid" its first continental European screening in 2009 _ and even that was a typically lo-fi affair.

"We had a Q-and-A with the director, with a megaphone," Greenhouse said. "Not even a microphone. Then someone stole our megaphone. This year we have a cone."

So far, Cannes in a Van is not a moneymaking project. Greenhouse funds it largely out of his own pocket.

But he says it gives aspiring filmmakers the most valuable of quantities _ an audience.

"It's something every grass roots filmmaker would love _ to have their film screened in Cannes, one way or another, to an audience," Greenhouse said. Although, he adds, "we can't guarantee the size of the audience."