What Is the Cannes Film Festival and Why Is It Important?

What Is the Cannes Film Festival and Why Is It Important?
Eva Longoria at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014
Valery Hache/AFP/Getty

05/08/2016 AT 07:00 AM EDT

So what is it about the Cannes Film Festival that brings George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Kristen Stewart, Sean Penn, Blake Lively, Justin Timberlake and dozens of other stars – including the famously media-shy Woody Allen – to the South of France?

Well, there's glamour, as seen in this fabulous hype video. And beautiful people, gorgeous dresses and yacht parties on the Mediterranean.

It's also big business. Many stars and Hollywood insiders are attending the festival to promote their films, most of which are are making their world premieres at the event. Allen's newest movie, Café Society, is the opening night film, and Clooney and Roberts' thriller Money Monster, directed by Jodie Foster, premieres May 12.

Getting a film into the festival, which launched on September 20, 1946, is already a mark of prestige, since only a few dozen films from around the world are picked for official screenings out of many submissions. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, dealmaking is in full swing involving hundreds of other movies as filmmakers and execs hammer out financing and distribution agreements.

The top films compete for the Palme D'Or, the festival's grand prize, which has been awarded to such movies as Taxi Driver and Pulp Fiction. Only filmmakers and industry insiders get to walk up the iconic red-carpeted steps at the Palais des Festivals for the black-tie-only premieres; tickets aren't for sale to the general public.

Thierry Frémaux, the director of the festival, told EuroNews that although popular culture breeds "stars" in rapid succession, you often won't see them at Cannes.

"Nowadays you are a star at the click of a finger. If you present the weather, you are a star ... if you do reality TV, you're a star."

At Cannes, though, the films are the stars.

"People don't just come to go to the beach, or to watch the films or for pleasure. They come to work. Buyers, sellers, distributors, producers, directors, all sorts of people," Frémaux added. "Cannes has to be the place to be. It's just where it's all at."

The 2016 Cannes Film Festival will run from Wednesday, May 11 through Sunday, May 22.
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