Mississippi students ‘walk among the stars’ at French film festival

Published 10:02 pm Monday, June 19, 2023

Eight University of Mississippi students walked among the stars at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, last month.

“Cannes is the biggest and most well-known film festival in the world, and I still can’t believe that I was able to attend,” said Audrey Seibel, a rising junior political science major from Wausau, Wisconsin.

“Not only did I watch French and American films, but also Turkish, Serbian, Congolese and Lebanese films, among many others, that all culminated in a wonderful celebration of film, culture and diversity that anyone would be lucky to experience.”

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As part of study abroad and French courses, the students were given credentials to be on the red carpet and attend world film premieres. Anne Quinney, professor of French, teaches the classes and has traveled annually with her students to the festival since 2019, with the exception of 2020 due to COVID-19.

“In the past, we were the only U.S. university student delegation to get the accreditation, ‘Cinéphiles,’ which is mainly used for French clubs,” Quinney said. “The festival showcases films from around the world as well as a few Hollywood blockbusters, so students see films that may never make it to the U.S. screens.

“The students were drawn to the familiar, of course, like Wes Anderson’s ‘Asteroid City,’ but then they surprised themselves when they were moved by smaller-budget films. This experience opened their eyes to worlds they didn’t know existed. I would say it was life-changing for some and may lead to career choices down the line.”

Besides Seibel, Ole Miss students attending the festival were:

  • Grace Azordegan, a rising senior French major from Madison
  • Bryce Barrett, a rising senior French and physics major from Nashville, Tennessee
  • Cooper Carrico, a rising junior international studies and Arabic major from Magee
  • Megan Hughes, a rising junior international studies major from Sumneytown, Pennsylvania
  • Henri Long, a master’s student in accounting and data analytics from Madison
  • Miranda Tate, a rising junior theatre arts major from Dallas
  • Morgan Whited, a May 2023 biochemistry graduate from Marion, Arkansas

Carrico said the atmosphere was his favorite part of attending Cannes.

“Whether you were walking down the street, sitting down at a restaurant or walking the red carpet, everyone’s spirits were high and enthusiastic,” Carrico said.

Students watched films including “Jeanne du Barry,” featuring actor Johnny Depp; “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” with actor Harrison Ford; “Monster,” by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda; and “Inshallah Walad,” the first Jordanian film to compete at Cannes.

In an unexpected turn of events, the group landed tickets to attend the premiere of the restored version of Bertrand Tavernier’s “Mississippi Blues,” which was filmed in Oxford in the early 1980s.

“After the screening, we went up to the director’s widow (Sarah Tavernier) and introduced ourselves,” Quinney said. “She was thrilled. We ended up getting together with her on our last day and even going to see the winner of the Palme d’Or film together and having dinner.

“In the process, we made a promise to bring ‘Mississippi Blues’ – and her – to Oxford and have a discussion about it.”

Whited penned a daily journal while she was in France. In one entry, she describes donning her formal attire and catching a bus to attend the premiere of the French courtroom drama, “The Goldman Case.”

“I gazed out the window of Bus A at a poster of the 1995 Palme d’Or-winning ‘Pulp Fiction,’ amazed and grateful to be in the same town, at the same festival, as so many venerated casts and directors, national and international alike,” she wrote.

Due to an increased demand for Cannes passes from industry professionals, student passes may be limited next year. This realization made the trip even more special for Long, who is considering a career in film finance.

“I am very lucky to have been able to attend,” Long said. “The festival is the second-largest media event in the world, topped only by the Olympic Games. I saw countless celebrities up close – like Leonardo DiCaprio and Steve Carrell – and from afar.

“I felt honored even to be allowed to attend film premieres where the directors were celebrated for the movies they have poured countless hours and energy into. I will forever see movies and films differently.”