Testing time for all in Cannes

Festival director justifies protocols versus glamour

by Richard Mowe

Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival director: 'We don’t want to look as though we were too privileged. Glamour doesn’t justify not abiding by strict health rules because of the pandemic'
Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival director: 'We don’t want to look as though we were too privileged. Glamour doesn’t justify not abiding by strict health rules because of the pandemic' Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival/Philippe Quaisse
Cannes supremo Thierry Frémaux in his traditional eve of Festival encounter with the media yesterday emphasised that “everyone is in the same boat” as it became clear that the strict Covid testing regime for this unusual 74th edition will be enforced to the letter.

He told the assembled throng: “Everyone has to abide by the same rules … festival-goers, the press, and the stars.” Any attendee without a vaccine certificate recognised by the French will have to get tested every 48 hours at the on-site testing facility.

Frémaux, 60, added: “It’s difficult to make exceptions for the Cannes Film Festival. We don’t want to look as though we were too privileged. Glamour doesn’t justify not abiding by strict health rules because of the pandemic.”

Stars and directors who attend photo-calls and press conferences will have their tests checked and masks will be de rigueur at the screenings.

Frémaux on Cannes Film Festival gala screening: 'We didn’t see the films for a year and a half. We decided to make the most of this moment in time'
Frémaux on Cannes Film Festival gala screening: 'We didn’t see the films for a year and a half. We decided to make the most of this moment in time' Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
After the cancellation of last year’s event because of the pandemic, Frémaux stressed that it was no-brainer decision “given how serious the situation was that time. There were people dying. There were artists who were her in 2019 and who are no longer around in 2021 so no-one should complain that a Festival was cancelled”.

The festival is the first event to take place in the town’s Palais des Festivals since March 2020 (normally packed with events throughout the year) which prompted Frémaux to emit “a collective sight of relief”.

Numbers, given the strictures, are reduced, with some 28,000 expected accredited guests from now until the closing of the festival on 17 July. In 2019, there were more than 40,000 with the total of media professionals down by 35 per cent.

Frémaux was quizzed on the thorny subject of competition from streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon, whose popularity rocketed during the lockdowns across the world and the closure of cinemas. Amazon has co-produced cult French director Leos Carax’s latest feature Annette with Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, which opens the Festival tonight (6 July) although Netflix is absent. He pointed out that such streaming giants had built their reputations on talent nurtured by the cinema, citing films including Mank by David Fincher and The Irishman by Martin Scorsese. "The only thing is that we have a rule, namely, films in competitions have to be released in French movie theatres,” he said.

He suggested that there was a completely amicable ongoing dialogue with the various platforms. “Our mission is to discover new names and put them them on the map. It’s what we do. So I’m not sure that even Neflix or whoever can skip the Cannes Film Festival."

Frémaux stressed that it had been an exceptional year for programmers. “We had nearly two years’ worth of films to draw on. A lot of films decided to wait until 2021 and then there were films that were not ready.

“We didn’t see the films for a year and a half. We decided to make the most of this moment in time. In 2019, there were 58 films and this year we have 71 films so in the end it's not than many more.”

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