The Cannes International Film Festival (French: Le Festival International du Film de Cannes or just Festival de Cannes), is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world. Founded in 1946, it is one of the most prestigious and publicised film festivals in the world. The invitation-only festival is held annually (usually in May) at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.
The Cannes Film Festival has its origins in the late 1930s when Jean Zay, the French Minister of National Education, on the proposal of Philippe Erlanger and with the support of the British and Americans, set up an international cinematographic festival. In 1947, the festival was held as the "Festival du film de Cannes", where films from sixteen countries were presented. At that time the principle of equality was introduced, with a jury made up of only one representative per country. The festival is now held at the Palais des Festivals, expressly constructed for the occasion, although for its 1949 inaugural the roof was unfinished and blew off during a storm. The festival was not held in 1948 and 1950 on account of budgetary problems. Although its origins may be attributed in part to the French desire to compete with Autumn's Venice Film Festival, in 1951 Cannes was moved to Spring to avoid a Fall clash.
In 1955, the Palme d'Or was created, replacing the Grand Prix du Festival which had been given until that year. In 1957, Dolores del Rio was the first female member of the jury as a Sélection officielle – Member. In 1959, the Marché du Film (Film Market) was founded, giving the festival a commercial character and facilitating exchanges between sellers and buyers in the film industry. Today it has become the first international platform for film commerce.
The festival has become an important showcase for European films. Jill Forbes and Sarah Street argue in European Cinema: An Introduction, that Cannes "became...extremely important for critical and commercial interests and for European attempts to sell films on the basis of their artistic quality" (page 20). Forbes and Street also point out that, along with other festivals such as Venice and Berlin, Cannes offers an opportunity to determine a particular country's image of its cinema and generally foster the notion that European cinema is "art" cinema.
Additionally, given massive media exposure, the non-public festival is attended by many movie stars and is a popular venue for film producers to launch their new films and attempt to sell their works to the distributors who come from all over the globe.