Cannes: Beloved Festival Figure Nathalie Dubois on Losing Her Brother in Paris' Bataclan Bombing
The France-born Dubois, who runs the DPA Cannes Gift Suite out of the Carlton Hotel, expresses the importance of coming to Cannes despite her fear of attending: "I'm frightened. But I'm going back to Cannes. It's too important not to."
I remember the day exactly. I was in the middle of production for a pre-Golden Globes gift suite, so I was crazy busy. At the moment it happened, I had a major high-blood-pressure crisis, so I had to stop working and lie down for a minute. That's when I opened my laptop and saw my sister had posted on Facebook: "Paris is under attack." Immediately I called my brother. He didn't pick up, so I called his house. Then my sister-in-law told me: He was at the concert. In the Bataclan.
What happened then? We waited. And waited. We went through hours of waiting together, living through the horror, not knowing if he was going to be all right. He wasn't. He was one of the 89 people killed at the club.
You never think terrorism will happen to you. My brother was in the advertising world — he was with Publicis, a big firm in Paris. His life was very similar to mine. I'm French, and though I live in L.A., Paris is my second home.
What happened changed everything. [The 2015 attack on] Charlie Hebdo should have been a huge wake-up call, but, to be honest, nothing changed with security between Charlie and the Bataclan. Now things are different. Paris feels so insecure, so damn dangerous. In the subway, people are watching each other, they aren't looking at their phones. They are on their guard.
Afterwards, I totally plunged myself into my business. But it's changed how I live. I haven't gone to movies, to concert halls since. I can't be around large groups of people in public. I don't go to Lakers games anymore, I don't go to the shopping mall. I think: They may come here, too. I think I will live with this fear forever.
Immediately after the attacks, I saw the impact on the business. We had a lot of clients who had confirmed in September and October that they were coming to Cannes but who canceled after Paris. After the attacks in Brussels [on March 22], more followed.
I understand. Everyone is scared. I've talked to friends, publicists, who wonder if we should go out at night in Cannes, if we should go to a cafe. The Paris attackers shot up cafes, restaurants, they attacked the way we live.
When I think about going to Cannes this year, I'm terrified. But I'm going. We have to go. We have to show them, show the terrorists, we aren't scared. They aren't more than us. They aren't stronger. And I know everyone is working together — the city, the hotels, the business, the police — to protect us.
Cannes is important. This is the biggest, most glamorous film festival in the world. Cannes is about the biggest movies, the biggest stars, the biggest dress, the biggest parties. But it's more than that. It's important as a symbol. The festival gives people dreams.
For me, as a French person and someone in this industry, Cannes also is about freedom. Cannes is our way of showing what our country is about. It shows these people who want to hurt us and attack our culture that this is what we love. We love to have fun, we love to enjoy life. We need to defend our culture, defend our art and our way of life if we are to rise up against these terrorists.
And Cannes is a global festival. You have Indian, Arabic, French, German, U.S. films all together, people from all over the world talking to each other, telling each other their stories through the language of cinema. It is a bridge, and it is beautiful. It's a symbol of what all of us and all our governments have to do if we are to fight this craziness.
So yes, I'm frightened. But I'm going back to Cannes. It's too important not to.
France-born, L.A.-based Dubois has been running the DPA Cannes Gift Suite out of the Carlton Hotel since 2005, as well as lounges at the Toronto Film Festival, the Golden Globes and France's Cesar Awards, among others.
This story first appeared in the May 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.