Cannes in a Van photo montage

Cannes in a Van screens The Age of StupidCannes in a Van is the ‘four-wheel film festival’ that takes independent film to the heart of the Cannes Film Festival & beyond…

We’ve come a long way since our first foray into guerrilla cinema in 2007 – screening an eclectic mix of film, animation & music videos including BAFTA winners and Oscar nominees, launching an international indie film awards (The Van d’Ors), running a monthly ‘music vs film’ night (Screen Social) and watching the careers of emerging film talent grow.

The Four-Wheel Film Festival

A little potted history of how, when, where and more importantly, why CiaV undertakes the punishing journey back to the southern coast of France every year. If you wanna know anything about us or we’re up to, then read on. If the concept and idea is enough, don’t worry – we’re not that interesting anyway!

We love the guerilla spirit of independent filmmaking. It drives so many peoples’ passions to say important things about what they believe in, their infatuation with film, their perspective on what’s happening in the world, their creative frustrations, visions and innovations. Every film has a creator who is undeniably committed to what they are doing, committed to their obsession.

Maybe their goal is to make a personal film about something close to their heart, maybe they see a bigger picture, maybe their profession is film. One thing’s for sure – some of them you will know about in 10 years… some will win Oscars, Baftas, international awards. Some will change the publics’ consciousness.
Our aim is to give films exposure. Where that exposure takes them is an unknown quantity, but it may just help them on their way.

Throughout 2013 we’ll be expanding the Cannes in a Van ethos through events, screenings and more.

Here’s a taste of how it all started in the shape of a documentary trailer made back in 2007 by filmmaker Sharron Ward.

CANNES in a VAN – A history in 1 minute

May 2006 – A drunken conversation between two friends leads to an idea to take independent short films that they screen in London… to Cannes… in a… Van!

May 2007 – The dream becomes reality as Andy, Si & Jamie make the long, cramped drive down to the South of France.
The trip sees international media coverage, a documentary film crew follows them… and they taxi home 9 Dutch school band members whose bus breaks down in the early hours of the morning just outside of Cannes.

May 2008 – Once the van had it’s top taken off and was fitted to run green… on vegetable oil and after doubt was cast on whether they would make it another year, Andy picks up 3 new crew members in the shape of Cath, Stuart and Janus. They set the town alive with flickering images and meet a great many characters along the way. Anyone remember Pop Your Panties?! No, me neither. Coverage was again broad, with Newsnight choosing to stay at the same campsite so they could feature the van in their film.

On their return they are tasked with curating the first Cannes in a Van Film Festival of independent film at the Movieum of London… in a week! The Van screens in Soho to promote the event.
In June, the Van is a guest at The Secret Garden Party festival. The festival-goers love the van and all it’s wonderous visual magic.

May 2009 – Some serious welding, fibre-glass work and a paint-job gives the van a new lease of life… It’s a shame it didn’t make it through the MOT which would cause the crew to chance it down to Cannes and witness a ‘severance’ of the echappement (exhaust for those not in the know). Stu and Cath are gone but Janus is still here, driving convoy once again with Andy and his new recruit, the very brilliant young Sam, who talks film like it’s in his DNA. The first feature the van has ever screened in it’s entirety, just happens to be the environmental ‘docu-drama’ The Age of Stupid’, together with a megaphone Q&A with the film’s producer, making it a memorable night.

May 2010 – Sam’s back for another year, together with his girlfriend Louise. Andy leaves his newborn baby behind (how could he?!) to embark on year 4. Still, the year went off to a good start with screenings of the independent feature, Colin… another Bafta winner, I Do Air and yet more coverage from the world’s camera wielding journos, including Myleene Klass for CNN!

May 2011 - The fifth year on the Croisette sees new faces Johnny Ride & Adam Hollingworth hitch a ride in the battered old Transit. Janus is still on board as is Andy and there are visits from old friends. John pimps the van giving it a wheel face-lift while Adam stalks Jonathan Ross on the street. The Oscar-nominated Wish 143 is screened among a great new batch of shorts and an outfit named FilmCoLab curate a couple of nights with films from leading graduates. The world’s smallest mobile film festival is rounded off with a visit from actress Olivia Grant who’s writing a piece for The Mail on Sunday on underground Cannes. She stops off for a film or two before dining with the A-list.

August 2011 – The inaugural Van d’Or Awards for independent film was held at The Roxy Bar & Screen in London. Celebrating some of the films screened during Cannes in a Van 2011, the event was packed out, representing the passion for indie film that so many share. The ultimate winner on the night was an emotive stop-motion animation, Fixing Luka, directed by Jessica Chapman, which won overall Best Film. Congratulations to all the winners.

May 2012 – After a tense start to the year and a feeling that the end of the road was nigh (due to financial issues with the van), along came a knight in shining armour in the shape of a global motoring giant called Ford. With a week to go until Cannes, there was suddenly a new Transit and crew in the shape of Emily, Izzy and Sean. An on-the-fly submissions process meant the days were filled with downloads and downpours, protected only by Ford-branded brollies. Screening films submitted the same day, Cannes in a Van ’12 rocked the Croisette once again.

September 2012 – The second Van d’Or Independent Film Awards went off with a bang on September 14th. With legendary film critic and all-round institution (to anyone over 25) Barry Norman hosting the night, things got off to cracking start with tales of Hollywood and star-studded encounters. We’ve missed you Barry! The big winners on the night were the team behind Best Drama and overall Best Film ’82′, director Calum Macdiarmid and producers Jessica Turner and Alexei Slater. Though they couldn’t be there to pick up the awards, they appeared at Screen Social in October to accept their prizes.

May 2013 – The partnership behind CIAV created a ‘digital motion design house’ named Swhype – which becomes the new home for Cannes in a Van & Screen Social. With this new business venture, the project gains real support with video production. Still with the support of Ford, a new low-roof van with an interesting customised top box was set on the road – the team regenerating into Andy (as ever) and recent graduates Ross Henbest and Oliver Hunt. Janus is also back to lend a reassuring hand.

At one point near the end of the trip, as the rains hammer down, American independent film legend Lloyd Kaufman proudly watches on as his latest Troma project Poultrygeist: Night of The Chicken Dead screens from a little yellow Transit. This is a true stand-out moment throughout the history of the project.

September 2013 – A much talked about trip to the Venice Film Festival is finally realised. A place where no cars go is treated to it’s first four-wheeled film festival, on the streets surrounding the glitz and glamour. The crew (Andy, Ross and Janus) are guided round the festival by local venetian Marina Rizzi. There’s an appetite for independent cinema and a raft of cultural goings-on to boot.

October 2013 – The Van d’Or Awards return for a third year, hosted at The Truman Brewery in London’s ultra-cool Shoreditch. This time Edith Bowman is in charge of presenting duties. Standards are higher than ever, with an incredible range of talent on show. Notable films include Roger The Real Life Superhero, Taking Life and the overall Van d’Or winner, Callum, directed by Michael van der Put.

 2014 – Efforts to kick off another year are dashed by Ford pulling their sponsorship of the festival. Spirits are flattened and hopes of screening the winning films become just that… hopes. One day perhaps, things might change. Until then, the project which grew from a silly conversation in the pub, is relegated to the Boulevard of Dreams.

Footnote by Andy Greenhouse (December 2017)

Alas, our hopes were dashed, seemingly forever in 2014 when Ford didn’t come on board for a third year running. The same year they pulled sponsorship from The Champions League, so it wasn’t just Cannes in a Van who lost out.

Last year we hatched a plan to return in 2017 for a ten-year anniversary trip, but after the awful events in Paris, Nice, London and elsewhere, we knew it wouldn’t be the same Cannes. We decided we would respect the authorities and increased security presence, and hung up our driving gloves and Magic Tree. We didn’t go back.

For me the project has been life-changing. It made me realise anything is possible if you believe. A cliché it is, but a truth it underlines.

So for the future, it appears pretty van-less right now. I’d like to get the project back on the road for a ‘Tout Le Monde’ tour, to talk to amazing independent creators from around the world about how they tell stories in their communities.

If someone is out there reading this, maybe with means to a branded marketing budget, a kind channel commissioner, or a philanthropic millionaire, please give me a shout.

Maybe one day we’ll again be heading to festivals and independent cinemas alike, bringing independent film right to the people… and once again I’ll say ‘watch out for the van near you!’.

A last word from Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die,

Life is a broken-winged bird,

That cannot fly.


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