Few things are not political, and the Cannes Film Festival is no exception. It had its origins in 1938 when the French Minister of Education, along with others in the film and journalistic world, decided to set up an international cinematographic festival as an alternative to the Venice Film Festival, the only international film festival at the time.
The art world was enraged when in 1938 Mussolini and Hitler overruled the jury’s decision in order to award Best Film to Italian war film Luciano Serra, Pilot produced by Mussolini’s son, and Best Foreign Film to Olympia, a German documentary film about the 1939 Berlin Olympics, despite the fact that the regulations prohibited awarding a documentary.
Outraged by the decision, the French, British, and American jury members withdrew from the festival and founded their own. On May 31, 1939, the city of Cannes was selected as the location partly due to its tourist appeal on the French Riviera.
The first event was planned to be held from 1 to 20 September 1939 in an auditorium at the Municipal Casino. However on September 1, German troops invaded Poland and the festival was postponed for 10 days to be resumed if circumstances allowed. However by September 3, France and the United Kingdom had declared war against Germany and the event was finally cancelled.
In 1946, the festival was relaunched and from 20 September to 5 October 1946, twenty-one countries presented their films at the First Cannes International Film Festival which took place at the former Casino of Cannes.