Cannes Opening Night: Festival Boss Thierry Fremaux Helps Enforce Selfie Ban

Festival officials outlawed personal photography on the steps leading to the Palais, warning violators that they would be denied entrance to film screenings.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Patricia Contreras and Hofit Golan test the limits of the selfie ban at the opening-night screening of 'Everybody Knows'

Thierry Fremaux is making the selfie ban a personal mission.

The Cannes Film Festival artistic director, who has long spoken out against “grotesque” selfies in an effort to return the event to a more elegant place — at least as far as the red carpet is concerned — stood at the top of the Palais steps just after 6 p.m.

With more than an hour to go before the official kickoff to the opening-night ceremony, Fremaux noticed one male attendee carrying a phone in his hand. Though the man was not taking a photo and only holding the phone in a visible manner, Fremaux motioned to a male staffer and whispered in his ear.

Once the man looked up, Fremaux waved his finger to signal, "no," as the practice of personal photography is not allowed anymore starting this year.

Just as he did that, two American female attendees asked a security guard at the double doors at the entrance to the theater to take a photo of them. Knowing the ban was now in place, the woman said, "But is it OK for you to take it for us?" The security guard said no and rushed them inside.

Some opening-night attendees also were warned they would be booted if they didn’t comply with the new rules banning selfies. It’s unclear how many guests, if any, were denied admission to the screening.  

Some seemed to have gotten away with selfies on the way into the Palais though. A Getty photo showed Mexican model and actress Patricia Contreras and Hofit Golan, an Israeli socialite and sometime Fashion TV host who is a red-carpet regular in Cannes, taking a  selfie outside the Palais.

And people were allowed to take pictures on the outdoor smoking patio out back with a view of the French Riviera. Several attendees headed directly there.

Though attendees were not allowed to take pictures this year, the parade of stars remained the same, and such A-listers as jury members Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Ava DuVernay walked the carpet and had no issues getting their pictures taken. The same was true for opening-night film stars Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who teamed for director Asghar Farhadi on Everybody Knows. 

The selfie and personal photography ban is one of the more buzzed about topics that has dominated talk ahead of the festival, along with the lack of American films, stars and parties, and just how much the #MeToo and Time's Up movements will impact the festivities and business deals.

Festival officials worked to make sure that attendees got the message about the personal photography ban. Envelopes delivered to the press containing tickets for Tuesday night's opening-night gala also included post card-size flyers detailing the ban. 

"No selfies and pictures on the red carpet, thank you!" it reads. Then came details on the punishment: "Offenders will be denied entrance to the screening." 

At a Monday press conference, Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux had continued to explain why the festival is taking such a hard stance on personal photography. He said that it's “grotesque" to place so much importance on selfies and photographs. "People fall down the stairs because they’re looking at their cell phones," he said, adding that it stalls human traffic up the Palais steps. "Plus, you don’t come to Cannes to be seen, but to see."

This is not the first time Cannes Film Festival officials have attempted to outlaw selfies. In April 2015, Fremaux announced a similar veto and didn't pull any punches then either. "You never look as ugly as you do in a selfie," he said at the time, leaning on the adjectives "ridiculous and grotesque."