Thousands of films are submitted to the Cannes Film Festival every year, and the selection committee watches every one of them. In the end, only about 50 feature films and 30 short films are included in the Official Selection, the main body of work that is the center of the festival. Several more are shown as opening and closing films and during the "sidebar" screenings of the Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week.
The films that make up the Official Selection are divided into several categories:
- Competition: Feature films and Short films
- Feature Films Out of Competition
- Un Certain Regard
For a film to be considered for the Competition, Out of Competition and Un Certain Regard sections, it must have been produced during the 12 months leading up to the festival, and it can't have been presented in any international context, which includes being shown in any other country besides the one in which it was produced, being shown in any international film festival, and being shown on the Internet. Besides those requirements, the film must "respect the aims of the Festival as defined in Article 1" of the Cannes Rules and Regulations:
The spirit of the Festival de Cannes is one of friendship and universal cooperation. Its aim is to reveal and focus attention on works of quality in order to contribute to the progress of the motion picture arts and to encourage the development of the film industry throughout the world.
Short films can't run more than 15 minutes. Feature films can run as long as they want. One of the selections for the 2003 Un Certain Regard, Marco Tullio Giordana's "La Meglio Gioventu," was five-and-a-half hours long.
Films that are screened Out of Competition are generally those that the Cannes selection committee really wants to recognize but don't quite fit the Competition criteria. Un Certain Regard is often used to display first-time films, experimental techniques, and progressive trends showing up in the work of established directors but not yet recognized in mainstream cinema.
The Cinefondation category, established in 1998, is exclusively for film students currently enrolled in film school. These movies can only be fiction, either live action or animation, they can't be longer than one hour, and anything produced in the 18 months preceding the festival is fair game. Like the other sections of the Official Selection, a film can only qualify for Cinefondation if it has not been presented on an international scale.
To find out about the films featured in the Directors' Fortnight, International Critics' Week, Feature Films Out of Competition, Un Certain Regard and Cinefondation, see The Official Cannes Web site.