Cannes began rolling out the red carpet yesterday as stars including Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively swept into town for the world’s top film festival whose dazzle is being tested by stiff security measures.
On foot, horseback and motorbikes, police patrolled the Croisette, a strip of beach lined with ultra-luxury stores and headed by the Palais des Festivals, the main venue for the cinema extravaganza which gets under way tonight.
A small army of workers carefully unrolled strips of the 60m red carpet that will host stars such as Julia Roberts, Jodi Foster, Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron, and George Clooney over the 12-day festival.
Hundreds of festival-goers, their official badges on display, thronged the streets, elbow-to-elbow with selfie-snapping tourists.
The population of the picturesque Riviera town is set to nearly triple to some 200,000 people as film producers, industry workers, actors and tourists roll in to soak up the glamour, sell films, network and party.
The 69th Cannes film festival has created a security headache worthy of a movie script for French authorities who have highlighted an unprecedented terror threat six months after a series of attacks left 130 people dead in Paris.
“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, and faced with an enemy determined to strike us at any moment,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on a visit to Cannes on Monday.
As a result an “extraordinary mobilisation” of security forces has been put in place, with 400 private security personnel deployed around the Palais des Festivals to control who goes in and out and check the bags of those entering.
Cazeneuve said that bomb experts would carry out daily sweeps before film screenings at the venue.
Hundreds more police officers and specialist units will be on duty in the city, whose lure for the rich and famous makes it equally attractive to jewellery thieves – with several multi-million dollar heists in recent years.
Cannes has 500 CCTV cameras, making it the most closely monitored town in France, said mayor David Lisnard.
He dismissed concerns that the tight security will throw a wet blanket over the parties, glitter and glamour of the event.
“Do you think an attack brings merriment? We have succeeded in preserving the festival atmosphere. The public will be at the foot of the (red-carpeted) steps. All the parties will be authorised but security must be taken care of,” he told AFP. “Cannes must be protected not because of the cocktail parties but because it is a professional event of a high level which brings honour to France.”
Last month elite police forces staged a simulated terror attack at the Palais des Festivals, where the films in the running for the main Palme d’Or prize are shown.
As part of the tight security, air and sea exclusion zones have been declared, as well as a ban on drones, and Lisnard has said random searches will be conducted in the streets of Cannes.
Hollywood stars Blake Lively and Kristen Stewart were snapped arriving in town, according to Vogue magazine’s Twitter feed.
The pair star in Woody Allen’s Cafe Society which will open the event today on what is forecast to be a rain-drenched evening.
The movie, about a young couple who fall in love in 1930s Hollywood, is being screened out of competition.
A total of 89 feature films will be shown during this year’s festival, 21 of which are competing for the main Palme d’Or prize.
With the clock ticking down to festival time, cranes and construction equipment still lined the Croisette where large screens went up and workers hammered away inside white tents.
In Cannes port, crew members scrubbed and shined the sleek yachts where many of the festival’s parties take place.
Several billionaires have parked their superyachts along the Riviera for the festival: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s “Octopus” was in Nice and director Steven Spielberg’s “Seven Seas” in Antibes, according to Forbes.com.
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