The most obvious connection between TikTok and Cannes will be the presence of popular viral creators at the festival. Make-up artist and influencer NikkiTutorials and French TikTok star TerryLTam will be interviewing stars on the red carpet on opening night, in a similar fashion to Emma Chamberlain who has served as red carpet host at the Met Gala for the past two years. Popular TikTokers have also been interviewed to attend the festival, including the UK’s Jesse Chuku, who studied videography and often creates film-related content, and [Amelia Dimz](https://www.tiktok.com/@ameliadimz?lang=fr_, who hosts the interview show Chicken Shop Date. Between them, the eight TikTokers invited have a combined 32.86 million followers – but none of them are particularly associated with the film industry, serving a similar purpose to the countless models who are paid by brands to walk the red carpet and garner publicity.
Is TikTok About to Change the Future of Cinema?
The partnership between the world’s premiere film festival (the Cannes Film Festival) and the world’s premiere source of viral dances (social media app TikTok) has caused quite a stir within the industry and among film fans, with reactions ranging from derision and tentative excitement to confusionand commentators speculating on what motivates such an exclusive event to team up with an app at the forefront of the millenial/Gen Z zeitgeist. But how will TikTok be represented at the festival, and what – if anything – does this mean for the changing shape of cinema?
"what does this mean for the changing shape of cinema?"
As part of the deal, TikTok announced a Short Film Competition within the app, where creators could upload their short film for a chance to win a cash prize and a trip to the festival’s 2022 edition, where the likes of Park Chan-wook, Claire Denis and David Cronenberg are all debuting new work. #TikTokShortFilm has garnered 4.4 billion views on the app, with entries ranging in style, budget, and understanding of the initial assignment (creators on TikTok will frequently include random popular hashtags in hopes of boosting engagement with their videos). None the less, there are some interesting TikTok short films which the competition has generated, such as Denis Dang’s The Golden Child and an untitled work by popular user Graysworld.
It seems unfortunate that with this collaboration Cannes and TikTok has failed to embrace the already blossoming community of film lovers and creatives on the app. Baron Ryan is a short filmmaker who creates surreal comedic content, while Maris Jones has amassed 753,000 followers with her inventive vintage-style videos, on topics from The Evolution of George Harrison to point-of-view videos about filmmaking in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Romanlolo was cited by festival director Thierry Fremaux as an example of filmmaking creativity on the TikTok. During Covid-19, Madaline Turner’s Wes Anderson-inspired ‘How to Survive a Pandemic’ video went viral, and she has continued to create original content in her idiosyncratic style, including advertisements for brand deals. Not only does TikTok have a vibrant community of creators, but the hashtag #FilmTok has 5.9 billion views, including reviews, compilations, commentary and clips. TikTok might be best known for its viral dance trends and plethora of funny animal content, but it’s clear that a booming film scene exists within the app, and it would have been interesting to see this more clearly incorporated into the partnership between the app and the festival.
"encouraging a younger audience to discover Cannes is no bad thing"
But to what extent might TikTok shape the future of cinema? TikTok’s highest-paid star Addison Rae broke into the film world last year with the main role in the gender-swapped remake of She’s All That (imaginatively entitled He’s All That) and her fellow app celebrity Charli D’Amelio will make her debut with supernatural thriller Home School, but these titles are a far cry from the films that tend to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival, which last year awarded the Palme d’Or to Julia Ducournau’s automobile-based thriller Titane. Breaking into the film industry is a tough nut to crack, and although influencers may appeal to studios by virtue of their built-in fanbase, scepticism around their wider on-screen still appears to linger (He’s All That did not receive positive reviews).
Yet encouraging a younger audience to discover Cannes is no bad thing. Despite the perception of Cannes as an exclusive festival dominated by inaccessible arthouse films, however, mainstream cinema has often appeared in the programme, from Shrek competing for top honours back in 2001 to Fast and Furious 10’s beach screening last year, and Top Gun Maverick premiering at the Palais amid a festival-wide celebration of Tom Cruise’s career, Cannes has been firm in its position that the festival celebrities cinema in all its capacities (unless, of course, you’re Netflix). If the presence of TikTok at Cannes does encourage curiosity around the festival’s history and programme, that can only be a positive thing.
"reducing TikTok to a slate of influencers posting content about their hotels and the Palais feels like a reenforcement of the idea that Cannes is for the few, rather than the many"
Should the partnership between TikTok and Cannes continue, perhaps more can be done to incorporate the creative filmmakers working on the app into the world of the festival. As Thierry Fremaux pointed out to Variety in April, the festival has made efforts to welcome new filmmakers and younger cinephiles into its world, so reducing TikTok to a slate of influencers posting content about their hotels and the Palais feels like a reenforcement of the idea that Cannes is for the few, rather than the many. The resignation of #TikTokShortFilm head juror Rithy Panh during the festival doesn’t bode well either, as he cited the app’s interference in the judging process as the motivation for his departure. “The difficulty is that TikTok is a marketing-focused company and fails to understand creators and their independence,” Panh told French publication L’Obs. So perhaps the birth of a TikTok auteur is still a little while away – at least, one who doesn’t come with strings attached.