Cannes: Festival President, Mayor Tout Heightened Security Measures

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Local police on the march in Cannes.

The city will deploy a new anti-drone system, as well as an expanded security perimeter, after several headline-grabbing terror attacks in France.

In a show of force ahead of the Cannes Film Festival's opening day, mayor David Lisnard, Alpes-Maritimes regional governor Georges-Francois Leclerc and festival president Pierre Lescure welcomed a panel of military men to show their might as questions of security hang over the festival.

The 10-person panel emphasized cooperation across divisions amid representatives from the gendarmerie, maritime forces, fire and regional security services.

For the first time, the city will deploy an anti-drone system, which will be one of the main new technology measures — if not the most visible — used during the festival. It’s part of a new system developed in Pariss.

"A special system that has been developed in Paris will be used," said Alpes-Maritimes gendarmerie commander Colonel Gregory Vinot.

Lisnard emphasized that Cannes was the first to hold a major fireworks display just two weeks after the terror attack in Nice last July, and that many of the security measures that will be used during the film fest — such as large cement blocks and oversized potted trees dotted through the pedestrian area of the Croisette — were tested successfully during the summer events.

“I think the security will be part of the festival, it’s inescapable,” Lisnard told THR. “It is like the U.S., for example, with the threat of an attack there is a lot of security and that is the price we pay.”

Lescure said: "Since we’ve entered this terrorism era, it was a real concern last year and since we had the tragedy of Nice, it’s a bigger concern. It’s a realistic approach from the state, the prefecture, the mayor and, I hope, from us."

“There is a circle of security around Cannes, with the Palais at the heart,” said Leclerc. Access to the city will be restricted, with the security perimeter getting tighter closer in. Metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs will also be part of the security at the Palais.

Chains, which had been put up along the Croisette Monday night to block vehicle and scooter access to the pedestrian area, will be “modified” before the festival opens to allow people to cross, Lisnard verified to THR.

However, “no neighborhood will be neglected,” Lisnard emphasized. “All neighborhoods will be reinforced. The security is in place for everyone, as well as Cannois, not just the festival goers.”

He added: “It is difficult in this ecosystem with the terrorist threat,” referring to the lone-wolf attacks that have plagued France for the past two years. “We have to adapt the security ecosystem under these circumstances.”

The panel also emphasized that the country is taking security seriously for the prestige event as Paris bids to host the Olympics in 2014.

“There is no identified, specific threat, but the heightened threat is very evident in France,” added Leclerc. He emphasized that security is operating under two directives, to maintain vigilance and to remain mobile across the city while uniting in a show of force, and also remaining invisible where needed.

Police will restrict access to the Croisette to accredited vehicles, and cars will be subject to search. "Perhaps from time to time you will have some traffic jams, some screenings could start a bit late, but a few minutes and not more," said Lescure. "But if we observe some more difficulties than a few minutes, we are working with the prefecture and David Lisnard to adapt."

Forces will meet every morning to identify and rectify any threats or security holes and coordinate efforts.

On the water, the sea has been divided into two zones, with an inner perimeter established around the city between the Palm Beach and Ile Sainte-Marguerite to avoid a repeat of last year’s incident at Hotel du Cap where a group of pranksters stormed the dock in a dinghy.

The panel said that the forces would be operating on two fronts — a visible force where needed, and often operating “invisibly,” to make sure festivalgoers and fans don’t feel intimidated at the fest that is the crown jewel of the region and an international symbol of the country's rich cinema culture.

"Cannes is a destination," said Lisnard. "People expect a certain experience."

Lescure was keen to emphasize the point. “In terms of conviviality, there will be no problem at all," he said. "It’s the 70th anniversary and it will be more a birthday party than a commemoration.”

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