The Cannes Film Festival may be both the most prestigious and the most excessive celebration of cinema in the world. This year the festival began–appropriately enough–with Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and continued with 12 days of the kind of parties where a diamond necklace worth $2.6 million could quietly disappear. There were an estimated 4,000 journalists on hand to capture the spectacle.
All of this makes Cannes an unlikely venue for Troma Films, the low-budget production house of Lloyd Kaufman, which prides itself on being the “oldest continually operating fully independent movie studio in the world“ and on making “some of the most offensive, tasteless films in the history of cinema.” It also makes the festival a great target for Troma’s latest provocation and associated documentary Occupy Cannes.
“This film festival is supposed to be about finding new talent, and also about independent film, but when you’re there it’s all about Hollywood,” says Occupy Cannes producer (and Lloyd Kaufman’s daughter) Lisbeth Kaufman. She and a team of 13 people crammed into a three-bedroom hotel room and spent 12 days handing out fliers, organizing impromptu parades, and leading chants like “O-C-C-U-P-Y! Independent film will never die!”
The ostensible purpose was to draw attention to media consolidation, which Kaufman says makes it harder for Troma and other independent artists to get their films screened. But their tactics were unconventional.
“We had a zombie crawl,” she says. “I think we had over 100 zombies crawling down the croisette.” Other spectacles included “constant streaking,” what she says was France’s first lesbian wedding, and a “meltdown” scene in which 100 volunteers were filmed turning into monsters and belching green foam, right next to the red carpet. “We made cinema history,” she says.
The spectacle was all caught on film by the Troma Team, and will eventually become a documentary about the relationship between independent film and the mainstream film world.
But the more immediate purpose, as with all things Troma, was entertainment. “You see these tourists standing outside looking at the red carpet. … It seemed very boring, so we wanted to entertain people” says Kaufman. “I think we had the most fun at Cannes.”