AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell Reports on the Cannes Film Festival 2019

(Above: Annie Silverstein, Johnny McAllister, Monique Walton at the Cannes premiere party for BULL.)

Fresh off of a trip to the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Austin Film Society CEO Rebecca Campbell shares some of the highlights from one of the biggest annual events in film and reflects on how AFS is a critical part of that dialogue.

Having been at the helm of AFS for 21 years now, I had a thought that I ought to one day make the pilgrimage to Festival de Cannes, the Mecca of film. I’m so grateful to a team who supported me in turning that brief thought into reality this year—the experience profoundly reinforced for me why AFS’s work is so important.

In the baggage claim at Nice, I ran into AFS Advisory Board member Mike Simpson and his lovely wife, Nancy. This got me a free ride to Cannes and great conversation with the nicest guy in Hollywood. You’d never know from his down-to-earth attitude (and love of Texas: he’s a graduate of UT Austin) that he was there to premiere films with two of the greatest directors working today, Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon-Ho.

Some other highlights:

    • It was a profound thrill to see Annie Silverstein listed on the schedule of films in competition, alongside Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch and the like. AFS has been supporting Annie’s artistic vision for several years through grants and our Artist Intensive, both for her breakout short SKUNK as well as BULL. At their classy premiere party, I grabbed a shot of Annie, writer / producer Johnny McAllister and producer Monique Walton. And speaking of Almodovar, PAIN AND GLORY is a stone-cold masterpiece.
    • Due to the quirkiness of the ticket system, I never ended up seeing BULL, but I look forward to celebrating it in Austin when the time is right. During one attempt to get in, I found myself in line with Winston Williams of the Capital City Black Film Festival, and when we were turned away due to the high demand, we made the most of it by visiting at the Pavillon Afriques. (Below: Rebecca Campbell and Winston Williams)


  • Walking the red carpet at the Grand Lumiere theater for the premiere of BACURAU, a powerful film by Kleber Mendonça and Juliano Dornelles. From this perspective, it becomes clear that the ritual is about so much more than generating stock photos of movie stars. The whole presentation—from the atmosphere to the reverence with which the audience greets the filmmakers and surrounds them for their bow—is how the French show the world that cinema is an art form that rivals all others.
  • Hanging out with AFS board member Riki Rushing and producer Tara Wood…Tara has brought her documentary QT8, about the first eight films of Quentin Tarantino, to the market after many unexpected twists and turns. Given Austin’s particular love for Quentin and his long history with AFS, I certainly look forward to seeing this doc!
  • Dinner with Alfred Cervantes of the Houston Film Commission, producer Sandhya Shardanand and actor Jonny Mars.

The credits rolled to an end for BACARAU with a statistic about the 800+ jobs it supported and this declaration: “Culture is Identity and Industry.” Like AFS’s tag line, MAKE WATCH LOVE FILM, I thought this captured in the most succinct way what makes film such a vital, humanist art form for our times. It was a great honor to spend five days so close to the heartbeat, and I am reinvigorated for all that AFS is doing and wants to do on behalf of strong film culture.