Glamorous Cannes unfolds in ring of steel amid heightened terror alert
Published 14/05/2015 | 08:19
Gaudy, glamorous Cannes is a bubble inside a ring of steel.
France is on heightened terrorist alert after deadly attacks in Paris, and the monied French Riviera offers rich pickings for criminals.
That means the world's glitziest film festival, which opened yesterday, is the focus of an intense security operation to try to keep disaster and drama confined to the screen.
"It's not a subject we want to talk about," said festival chief Thierry Fremaux, sitting on a sun-baked terrace overlooking Cannes' yacht-filled harbour.
"Since Sept 11 - since always - Cannes is a place which is very well protected," he added. "The security measures are very, very, very important here."
Security has been tightened across France since Islamic extremist attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January left 20 people dead, including three gunmen.
In February, a knifeman attacked three soldiers outside a Jewish community centre in the southern city of Nice, about 32 kilometres from Cannes.
French law-enforcement au thorities say they don't know of any specific threat to Cannes, but they regard the festival - a magnet for the world's media - as a potential target.
The streets of the seaside town are guarded by hundreds of municipal and national police, backed up by riot squads, and overlooked by almost 500 surveillance cameras
Philippe Castanet, the official in charge of security at the festival, told Europe 1 radio that there is also an invisible layer of agents "assessing risk with eyes and ears," analysing the Internet and social media for signs of trouble.
An inner security cordon surrounds the festival itself. Access to the Palais des Festivals, where screenings, photo-calls and press conferences are held, is controlled by a phalanx of polite and dapper security guards who scan passes, search bags and wield metal-detecting wands.
There have still been occasional security breaches. In 2013 a man with a knife and a starter's pistol disrupted a live beachside television broadcast.
Last year, Ukrainian prankster Vitalii Sediuk managed to get on the red carpet and dive under the dress of actress America Ferrera.
The French Riviera, with its extravagant displays of wealth, is also a criminal target - especially at festival time, when the town's population of 75,000 triples.
In 2013 a lone gunman pulled off one of the biggest jewellery heists of all time, stealing $136m worth of diamond jewellery from Cannes' Carlton Hotel - a location for Alfred Hitchcock's classic movie To Catch a Thief.