CANNES, France (AP) – Cannes is back.
The lights are in place, the stars on their way to the Côte d’Azur. And Spike Lee’s face stares at the Croisette from a huge banner announcing the Tuesday debut of the world’s first film festival.
The show is 14 months late, due to the pandemic. And it’s high time for the city’s shopkeepers, hoteliers and restaurateurs, who hope that the return of glamor and festival revenues heralds a broader renaissance for the region and the French cultural world after an exceptionally damaging year.
“We have lost all international conventions, congresses, major events like the film festival. So we lost millions, ”Charles Richez, director of the Majestic Hotel, told The Associated Press. “We are now very happy to have the film festival again. This is the start of the return of all international events.
Cannes organizers are attempting the first large-scale film festival in the coronavirus era, despite concerns over the delta variant which is rapidly spreading across Europe.
Masks are mandatory at festival events and participants must be fully vaccinated or tested every 48 hours. But moviegoers can sit side by side, and the festival doesn’t have a virtual component.
Visitors return to the city’s shore and families frolic on the beaches of Cannes as the summer holiday season in France kicks off this week. Tourists took selfies in front of the festival banner, unfurled on Sunday and adorned with palm trees, seagulls and the cap and glasses of jury chairman Spike Lee.
As workers polish the windows of the Palais des Festivals, there is no indication that this temple of world cinema was lined with hospital beds at the start of the pandemic, or used as a “vaccine park” earlier this year.
But it’s still not a normal year. Cannes crowds have been small so far and restaurants have more empty tables. Some windows have remained barricaded.
A successful festival would be a boost for the conservative mayor of Cannes, who has just been re-elected and deserves inordinate national attention for welcoming the world’s film elite to his city of 75,000 inhabitants, which he calls a “village. worldwide ”.
It would also be a great relief for the government of President Emmanuel Macron, which opened the doors of France to American and foreign tourists just in time for the Cannes film festival, after repeated outbreaks of the virus killed more than 111,000. and have hammered the economy and health care. system.
As infections in France start to rise again after weeks of decline, authorities are urging more people to get vaccinated to avoid a summer lockdown.
For 12 days in Cannes, however, the virus will take a back seat to glamor, intrigue and drama on and off screen. Leos Carax’s musical “Annette” opens the event on Tuesday, followed by films by Wes Anderson, Sean Penn and filmmakers from around the world. Some were official selections last year for a festival that never took place.
“We just want to work,” said Enzo Comme, manager of a Cannes café called New. “We don’t want help from the government … we just need to open up, work and then afterwards, if possible, we want to take these masks off.”
Louise Dixon in Cannes and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to it.