Wednesday 28 September 2016

Tight security as Cannes festival opens amid fresh terror concerns

Jake Coyle

Published 12/05/2016 | 02:30

Kirsten Dunst at Cannes yesterday. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Kirsten Dunst at Cannes yesterday. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Coming six months after the Paris attacks in November, the 69th Cannes Film Festival has elevated security measures, swarming the French Riviera resort town with an increased police presence.

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But particular care has been made to preserving the spirit of the annual cinema celebration.

Bomb sweeps and bag checks have been stepped up. A dramatic, unnerving drill was held last month in which mock gunmen stormed the festival's palace hub. And festival president Pierre Lescure has said that about 500 highly-trained security agents will be on guard around Cannes' red-carpeted headquarters, the Palais des Festivals. That's in addition to around 200 police and extensive surveillance cameras.

But the festival, which opened yesterday, has also sought to counter the heightened state by continuing with business as usual. The party will most definitely go on.

"The atmosphere is good," festival director Thierry Fremaux said in an interview Tuesday. "Cannes is a celebration of life, of cinema."

"These films have a big fighting spirit," he added. "This is also what makes Cannes and we still want to show that."

Perhaps signalling that maintaining such a balance will have its difficulties, moments after Fremaux spoke, alarms rang out inside the Palais, forcing an evacuation.

The most striking change, as many noted, weren't security agents but a wardrobe change for the ubiquitous festival ushers. To glowing reviews from critics, their traditionally beige suits have been replaced with blue ones.

"The French public statement was very clear, is very clear," Fremaux said. "The festival is as usual, the same way as usual, so everything will be fine."

That was consistent with earlier statements made by Lescure, who pledged that "the maximum" has been done to balance security and ensure "that the festival remains a place of freedom."

Others have emphasised that the film festival, must be diligently guarded.

"We must keep in mind as we prepare to open this festival that we are faced with a risk which has never been as high," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

Irish Independent

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