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Scenic Cannes turned into a fortress to thwart terror strikes

The security at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival has been “unprecedented”. As a result, many screenings have been starting late -- something unheard of at Cannes.

world cinema Updated: May 19, 2017 16:20 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

The General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux, waits on May 18, 2017 for guests to arrive for the screening of the film 'Blade of the Immortal' (Mugen no Junin) at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP)

One of the most overriding concerns at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival is the threat of terrorism. And with elaborate security procedures in place, many screenings have been starting late -- something unheard of at Cannes. The men responsible for the safety of the thousands of people who have landed in this French resort to attend the festival have just not been able to cope with the numbers -- with the result that it has been taking quite a while to make one’s way into the auditoriums.

A cop told this writer on Thursday that this year the security was “unprecedented”. And with France remaining under an elevated level of threat, the local authorities have no choice but to up security measures to a kind of height never seen before. Apart from inducting hundreds of additional armed policemen and army men, a state-of-the-art-drone-system has been introduced.

There have been whispers of and concerns over the possibility of terror attacks of the kind we saw during the Bastille Day in Nice in 2016. As many as 86 men, women and children lost their lives there when a lorry ran into a crowd celebrating the day. And Nice is just 30 minutes away from Cannes.

Not willing to take any chance, access to Cannes’ busy Croisette has been restricted to accredited vehicles -- and the really beautifully beach front looks ugly with dozens of barricades -- which have replaced the traditional flowerpots.

General view of the bay of Cannes. (REUTERS)

With the city’s cops allowed to carry guns for the first time and hundreds of civilians enlisted to volunteer, Cannes looks like a fortress under the imminent danger of being invaded by terror groups.

Last year, in spite of increased vigilance, a group of men carried out a fake attack on one of the biggest hotels on the Cannes’ sea front. A mere publicity stunt, the “attack” nonetheless left the police rattled and humiliated.

However, despite all this, Cannes on Day 2 (Thursday) was buzzing with people and professionals who appeared determined not to be bogged down by the presence of gun-totting men in battle gear.

The festival runs from May 17 to 28.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for close to three decades)

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