Millions invested to thwart terror attacks at Cannes
Set to unspool just 10 days after France's fateful presidential election, the Cannes Film Festival is ramping up security measures more than ever before.
The city is spending millions to bolster security as plans are being finalized for the world's biggest festival, starting May 17, which is expecting stars like Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, Kristen Stewart, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and director Sofia Coppola.
But the question, for many fest-goers, is how safe is Cannes going to be this year?
Between high-profile thieves, last year's terror attack in Nice, rising far-right politics, and ongoing tensions with the local French-Arab community, the French Riviera has gone through a rough patch over the past few years. The pressure-cooker atmosphere has led the city of Cannes, which hosts numerous industry events such as Mipcom, MipTV, and the Cannes Lions, to ramp up its security standards to make international visitors feel secure.
The upcoming 70th edition will be the first Cannes Film Festival since the tragic attack in Nice when an Islamist terrorist ran a cargo truck through a crowd watching fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 85 people, just 18 miles away from Cannes.
Since the attack last July, the region has been more on edge than ever. The French Riviera has become a stronghold of the far right, which has stirred tensions with the French-Arab population in the region. Controversial presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who is running against Emmanuel Macron, gathered 30% of votes in the region, the country's highest score for her political party.
Cannes mayor David Lisnard, who commissioned an audit from Israeli counter-terrorism expert Nitzan Nuriel following the Paris attacks in November 2015, has taken strong measures to prevent a similar truck attack. Substantial barriers, most in the form of huge concrete planters, were installed along the sidewalk which leads to the Palais, the headquarters for most Cannes premieres and festivities.
The city will also spend $6 million to place automatic retractable bollards at every entry point to the town, said Yves Darros, who heads up Cannes police.
Despite having some of France's tightest security standards, Cannes has become notorious for its high-profile heists. In 2015, as much as $19 million worth of jewelry and watches were stolen from Cartier boutiques in the city just before the festival. Aiming to prevent such thefts, the number of surveillance cameras was increased from 400 to 550 across the city's tourist and festival venues in the last two years.
Cannes has also recruited a wide network of 500 local volunteers plus 80 “vigilant neighbors” who are in charge of patrolling across the city to watch out for suspicious activity and report it to authorities.
France, which has been under a State of Emergency since the Paris attacks of November 2015, was just listed in the travel alert issued by the US State Department on Monday, which mentioned the continued threat of terrorist attacks throughout Europe.