It turns out Kanye West didn’t just want to make a short film — he wants to completely change the way movies are watched.
West debuted his Cruel Summer to a small audience Wednesday in Cannes. In a parking lot along the water at the Palm Beach, a pyramid-shaped tent was built to house the group of about 200 people who attended the first viewing of the project, which has been kept under wraps leading up to its premiere.
West arrived early, spending some time talking to the other attendees in the parking lot. His new girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, wore a short gold beaded dress. West’s collaborator Jay-Z also attended (without his wife, Beyonce, however). And while the invitations required formal attire, West wore a white blazer and jeans to the event.
Cruel Summer cast members including Kid Cudi, Big Sean, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal and Palestinian actor Ali Suliman also attended the event.
The short film, a seven-screen art installation, was made in association with the Doha Film Institute and was shot on location in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The audience gathered in the pyramid tent, where West gave a very brief speech welcoming the crowd, saying, “I’ve had notoriously long speeches in the past, so I’m going to keep this short.”
The film, shot using multiple cameras to provide different angles on each of the seven screens, follows a car thief (Kid Cudi) who meets a beautiful and mysterious blind Arabic woman, who uses golden strings tied throughout her house to navigate around. Her father says he can only marry her if he can help her see.
The film is heavy on the use of music and sound, the seats often shaking from the bass. Several times during the under-30-minute clip, the audience would sway to the beat of the songs, including those from the upcoming debut album from his G.O.O.D. Music label. Along with directing, West also has a small part in the film, as does Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari.
After the film ended, Kardashian was one of the first to stand and give her date a standing ovation. West again took to the microphone, explaining that he’d first come up with the idea for a seven-screen movie while on tour with Jay-Z to support their album Watch the Throne. He said he wanted people to be immersed in the movie-watching experience because he noticed that he would get bored in movie theaters if he wasn’t doing several things at once. “You’re always looking at a BlackBerry when you’re at a ballgame or the theater,” said West. “It’s because of the amount of information we have at once.”
The multiple-Grammy-winning rapper went on to say that he was amazed that Cruel Summer even got made in time. He said that they were in Qatar shooting just one month ago.
“All odds were against us having this moment in Cannes,” he told the crowd, adding that he felt the version shown in Cannes was still a “rough draft.”
West also spoke about his goals outside of music, from his fashion line — which he admitted got panned the first time around — to changing the entertainment experience as a whole. He said he hopes a multiscreen movie-watching experience can be a part of the future.
“I can dream one day that is will be the way people will watch movies,” he said.
After the screening, West spoke to Jay-Z and had a quite moment with Kardashian before heading into the beachside party. Two more screenings of the film were shown that night, as West spent time chatting up his friends at the afterparty. He later moved back to a more private section, where he wrapped his arms around Kardashian and spent some time with her swaying to the music pulsating from the DJ booth.
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford
L-R: Kid Cudi, Ali Suliman, Hayat Al Fahad, Kanye West, Razane Jammal, Sarah A arrive at Cruel Summer.